It isn’t novel news when a far-left organization unethically dodges campaign finance laws. It is, however, a rather more unusual occasion when the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC)—the state agency in charge of enforcing state campaign finance laws—launches a formal investigation into one of these organizations. According to new reports, the PDC has done just that, launching an investigation into the Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) thanks to a complaint filed by the Freedom Foundation.
Allegedly, the LERC—a taxpayer-funded entity—failed to report lobbying activity intended to increase its state funding. Currently, LERC “receives about $160,000 in state funding each year, which is supplemented by union contributions and various grants.” Interestingly enough, Jay Inslee proposed a funding increase of a whopping $500,000 per year in his budget.
Inslee’s proposal of tripling the LERC’s budget—and raising taxes to do so—is perhaps the result of successful lobbying activities done without proper registration. Or, it could be because Inslee was thankful for the millions of dollars that unions pumped into his last campaign. Records indicate that LERC director Sarah Laslett “regularly lobbied state legislators and the governor’s office for dramatically increased state funding despite never registering as a lobbyist with the PDC.”
But, that’s not all. Documents reveal LERS staff also engaged in partisan political activities using taxpayer dollars. Among its potentially illegal activities, documents indicate that LERC staff “used state resources to support SeaTac’s $15-an-hour minimum wage ballot initiative in 2013.”
The Freedom Foundation stated in a news release:
“The Freedom Foundation also filed a formal complaint against LERC in January with the Executive Ethics Board, which investigates allegations of state employees using public resources for political activity. The board is still conducting its preliminary investigation.
“Overall, the documents show LERC functions as little more than a state-subsidized extension of the Washington State Labor Council. In a meeting of LERC’s advisory committee, the WSLC’s Lynne Dodson noted that “the Labor Center is a key part of the WSLC’s agenda and forthcoming strategic plans.”
“LERC director Sarah Laslett stated in several emails that, “It makes sense for the Labor Center to take on strategic research projects for the WSLC,” and noted that LERC is “in the position of wanting to best serve unions.”
“One such project was the development for the WSLC of anti-right-to-work training and messaging materials. After developing the material, LERC staff traveled the state to train union members at a series of workshops about how to fight adoption of a right-to-work law in Washington.”
This isn’t the first time far-left organizations have been caught dodging campaign finance laws to benefit their special interest agendas. And, unfortunately, it likely won’t be the last – unless the PDC actually comes down hard on this behavior.
Shift will update on the PDC’s investigation as more information come to light.