The Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) is supposed to be a non-partisan government agency dedicated to ensuring candidates and ballot measure sponsors fully comply with state campaign finance disclosure laws and rules. With the goal of government transparency, it provides information concerning campaign contributions and expenditures to the public.
The PDC holds the serious responsibility of ensuring accountability and compliance with our state’s campaign laws. Given the weight of its non-partisan responsibility, one would assume that the agency would take great care not to enter into the political fray – especially when it directly pertains to a ballot measure under consideration in Washington State.
Unfortunately, you would be wrong.
On Monday, the PDC posted this on its Facebook page:
The post links to a Vice News article that favorably describes an ongoing protest over campaign finance reform that is occurring in Washington D.C. this week. So far, the protest has resulted in hundreds of arrests. Notably, the PDC’s post describes the situation as “cool.”
Whatever might be your view of campaign finance reform, the fact that a non-partisan agency is calling a protest “cool” and pushing an article with a very partisan agenda is entirely inappropriate. But, the PDC’s actions get even more inappropriate when one considers what the protestors want and how that relates to Washington State.
According to the article posted by the PDC, protestors are “demanding that Congress ‘take immediate action’ to create a viable small-dollar public funding system for federal elections” and overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The protestors’ “Equal Voice for All Pledge” could be lifted directly from two initiatives being pushed by the far-left in our state this year – one to allow for small-dollar public funding of state elections and the other to create a state constitutional amendment to overturn Citizen’s United.
The public subsidies initiative for politicians is being pushed by a very ironically-named group called Integrity Washington, which seeks to qualify its agenda for the November 2016 ballot. Similar to a flaky idea that passed in Seattle, the measure would allow Washington voters to make $150 in taxpayer-funded donations to legislative candidates every two years.
What makes the sponsoring group’s initiative beyond laughable is that Integrity Washington’s top two donors are dark-money PAC’s from out-of-state: Every Voice from Washington, DC, ($225,000 in donations through March) and Represent Us, from Massachusetts ($119,000 so far). These two groups have provided 97% of the money the so-called Washington State PAC has raised.
And, it just so happens that Every Voice is one of the “Endorsing Organizations” of the Washington, DC protests being praised by the PDC.
So, the out-of-state funded Integrity Washington is gathering signatures for a potential ballot measure that seeks to create “a small-dollar public funding system.” The PDC is currently applying its rules to the PAC – yet, staff on this same PDC, including its Executive Director, who “Liked” the PDC’s Facebook Post in question, thinks it’s appropriate to praise the ideas that would appear on the ballot measure.
The second measure is Initiative 735, which seeks to amend the state’s constitution to try to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, will appear on the ballot this fall. Sponsoring organization WAmend – which is endorsed by virtually every Democrat Party organization in the state – is also regulated by the PDC in its efforts.
A relevant question: Who holds the campaign watchdog agency accountable when it starts using public resources to advance a political agenda?
Evelyn Fielding Lopez says
Hello ShiftWA–thank you for visiting our PDC facebook page! I am the Executive Director of the PDC, and the author of the post mentioned in your article. I’m not going to retreat from my initial thought that it is “cool” that campaign finance issues are under discussion both nationally and locally–this is an area that people should care about, and more discussion, from every side of the political spectrum, is welcome. But I did want to clarify that my post is not an endorsement of any agenda, and certainly not tied to any ballot initiative that may be under consideration in our November election. If you scroll through past facebook posts, you will see that we try to post something of interest every day. Usually we post about PDC news or information, but when I don’t have anything specific to the PDC I look at campaign finance news alerts from Google to find interesting stories. My goal is to get people thinking about campaign laws and issues, and to encourage discussion. I look forward to your input on these topics, and if you have any thoughts on our new PDC website I’d love to hear those too.
Evelyn Fielding Lopez, PDC Executive Director