Sunday, April 13, 2008

Federal Government Opens Formal Investigation into Dan Pike's Political Activity

During the campaign, The Bellingham Herald stated, “Dan Pike has shaken up the political landscape of city politics…”

But at the time of publication, The Bellingham Herald had no idea just how badly Dan Pike would shake up the political landscape of this sleepy, seaside town –

In retrospect, looking back over the media's coverage of alleged violations during the campaign, it appears that neither The Bellingham Herald or KGMI radio talk show host, Brett Bonner did much independent research into Dan Pike’s alleged or potential campaign violations. In fact, Bonner acknowledged that most of his and Sam Taylor's, (Bellingham Herald government reporter), research focused on the individuals who filed the complaints, as if the complainants, not the candidate, were the individuals who had done something wrong.

Mr. Pike appeared on Brett Bonner's talk show, expressing his outrage at being accused of campaign reporting violations. (Both The Bellingham Herald and Brett Bonner publicly supported Dan Pike during the Mayor’s campaign).

Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of Bellingham voters were casting their ballots based on information received from local media --

On March 4, 2008, city resident Tim Paxton filed a formal State and Local Employee Hatch Act complaint against Dan Pike, alleging, in part, that Mayor Dan Pike’s campaign became illegal onJune 13, 2007, the day Mr. Pike sought and received the endorsement of the Whatcom County Democratic Party. (Federal law prohibits covered Hatch Act employees from participating in partisan elections or advertising political party endorsements in campaign material, television ads, forums, blogs, websites and You Tubes). The endorsement can be viewed here:

If the allegations are correct, Dan Pike was legally obligated to withdraw from the Mayor’s race or resign his position as Transportation Director with the Skagit Council of Governments effective June 13, 2007. Failing a voluntary resignation or withdrawal from the campaign, Mr. Pike’s former employer, Skagit Council of Governments, should have demanded that Pike withdraw from the Mayor’s campaign or resign from his position as Transportation Director.

But Dan Pike did not resign his position nor did he withdraw from the mayor’s race. By refusing to resign or withdraw, he may have placed his former employer’s federal funding in jeopardy. The Hatch Act is sometimes referred to the "resign to run" act. The OSC advisory can be viewed here:

On April 8, 2008, Mr. Paxton received correspondence from Erica Stern Hamrick, an Attorney for the Hatch Act Unit of the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) acknowledging that the OSC has opened a formal investigation into Mayor Pike’s political activities while he was employed at SCOG.

Mayor Pike has been silent on the matter, but was quoted by the media during the campaign stating that he had administered up to $500 million dollars in Transportation Projects while working in the Transportation industry, including his tenure as Transportation Director for the Skagit Council of Governments in Mount Vernon.

Now, before you haul off and shoot the messenger, try to remember that the Hatch Act has been on the books since 1939. (Almost 70 years). The State and Local Employee version of the Act was adopted in 1940. (68 years ago). A PowerPoint presentation and Video from OSC is available for your review at the bottom of this post. This is not some obscure law that no one knows about. The federal government has spent millions of dollars training covered employees about the Hatch Act.

Complainants don't write campaign laws. They file complaints when they believe a candidate has violated state or federal campaign law(s). In turn, enforcement agencies carefully review the documentation provided by the complainant to determine if they will open a formal investigation of the candidate's activities. State and Federal agencies do not open investigations based on heresay or rumor. They require solid evidence of alleged wrong doing before they open an investigation.

Dan Pike is solely responsible for his behavior. Granted, Mr. Pike may have received bad advice from campaign advisors, but, in the end, he is the only person who is legally and morally responsible for his political decisions.

In short, playing fast and loose with campaign law compliance issues is like gambling. At some point, the odds will catch up with you. While one or two violations may go unobserved, sooner or later someone - a political opponent - the media - or enforcement agency official - is likely to start looking for larger transgressions. If they find violations, they will file complaints with appropriate state or federal agencies.

Daniel Venus Pike may be the Mayor of Bellingham, but if Paxton's allegations are correct, Pike may have won the seat illegally, pushing other qualified, law-abiding candidates out of the running for the mayor’s seat.

Yes indeed, Dan Pike has certainly shaken up the political landscape of this sleepy, seaside town.

Office of Special Counsel PowerPoint on State & Local Employee Hatch Act:

Office of Special Counsel State & Local Employee Training Videos:

PDC statement on Internet Use:

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