Television stations should pull all remaining ads from Citizens for Liberty and Labor until the group complies with state law and reveals the source of the mysterious $70,000 that was used to purchase airtime.
As we detailed before (and was later reported by the Spokesman Review), Spokane mayoral candidate Ben Stuckart’s allies at the Spokane Firefighters Union failed to disclose the source of approximately $70,000 in contributions. These funds were then immediately included in the $80,000 contribution the firefighters sent to the Citizens for Liberty and Labor, the organization formed to run the negative ads against Stuckart’s opponent, Nadine Woodward. This $80,000 from the firefighters is by far the largest contribution to this negative ad campaign.
Now Citizens for Liberty and Labor has run afoul of Washington state election laws and have received an official Public Disclosure Commission complaint for not providing legally required information for the negative ads they are running against Woodward.
The complaint states this about Citizens for Liberty and Labor:
“This PAC has not once legally complied with Washington State’s campaign finance laws when they come to proper identification of top contributors in their media communication.”
Specifically, the complaint asserts that the ads fail to properly provide the required list of the three largest contributors of any of the group’s top five contributors who are also political committees. If any of those contributors are also PACs, Citizens for Liberty and Labor must continue to “drill down” and inform the voters who the top three contributors of that PAC as well.
With the passage H.B. 1379 during the 2019 legislative session, this information is now required for all independent expenditures that are run to either support or oppose candidates. It is fully explained in this guide from the PDC.
As you can see from this screen grab from Citizens for Liberty and Labor’s negative ad against Woodward, only the top five contributors are listed and all of them are political committees (Spokane Firefighters Union PAC, SEIU Union WA State Council PAC, FUSE Votes, UFCW Local 1439, and WA Conservation Voters Action Fund). Washington state law requires that the top three contributors of each of these political committees must also be listed in the ad.
Why is this level of information important for the public? It ensures that political committees are not used as a money laundering organization for those who are truly paying for the ads. Something that appears to have occurred with an anonymous contributor, the Firefighters PAC, and the Citizens for Liberty and Labor.
With the previous complaint of a mysterious $70,000 being deposited into the Spokane Firefighters PAC accounts and with that money being sent to Citizens for Liberty and Labor, there is the appearance of money laundering.
Now with this second complaint regarding the failure to list the top three contributors to the Firefighters PAC (which would have revealed the source of the mysterious $70,000), the appearance is even stronger.
Both the Spokane Firefighters PAC and Citizens for Liberty and Labor now have official Public Disclosure Commission complaints that they broke Washington state election laws to protect the identity of the mysterious $70,000.
The reason why we have the Public Disclosure Commission and all of filing requirements for campaigns, parties, and political committees is to stop this type of shady activity from influencing elections. The position of Spokane Mayor should not be decided by these shenanigans.
Again, we encourage television stations to pull any remaining ads from Citizens for Liberty and Labor until it complies with state election laws and reveals the source of the mysterious $70,000 that was used to purchase airtime.