Ferguson campaign finance saga not quite over

OLYMPIA — A state campaign watchdog has put off action on a proposed deal to dismiss complaints against Attorney General Bob Ferguson stemming from his handling of $1.2 million contributions to his gubernatorial campaign.

Had the Public Disclosure Commission approved the agreement reached between its staff and Ferguson, it would have ended a months-long probe begun after the Democratic candidate refused to reveal the source of the money he shifted from past campaigns into his current one.

Commissioners, after briefly deliberating behind closed doors on Thursday, said a written decision would be issued by the end of the month.

The proposed eight-page agreement contains a stipulation of facts, a recommendation for dismissing the complaints and a finding that Ferguson — who has since disclosed the identity of donors — did not violate any state campaign finance laws.

Ferguson campaign manager Wellesley Daniels and PDC Deputy Director Kim Bradford signed it.

Thursday’s development is the latest twist in a case that dates back to early May, when Ferguson transferred $1.2 million of unspent “surplus” funds from previous campaigns into his new gubernatorial campaign account.

At the time, candidates could make such transfers from their surplus accounts into a campaign for a new office in a lump sum with permission from each affected donor. However, they did not have to disclose donor names or amounts of their contributions.

That changed on May 11.

Commissioners, after a couple weeks of discussion, approved new guidance requiring candidates to identify the donors and treat their contributions as if they are for the candidate’s new campaign, making them subject to disclosure rules and contribution limits for the race.

A complaint filed by Tallman Trask of Seattle contended the rules should apply to the $1.2 million moved by Ferguson. The attorney general refused, saying he followed the rules in place at the time of the transfers.

On Aug. 16, Ferguson relented, disclosing the donors in amended finance reports and also returning $86,000 to his surplus campaign account. His campaign also requested the commission end its investigation.

“Our reporting is now entirely consistent with the new interpretative guidance,” wrote Abbot Taylor, Ferguson’s campaign treasurer, on Aug. 17 to commission staff. “We trust the complaint will now be dismissed and this matter concluded.”

________

Jerry Cornfield writes for the Washington State Standard (https://washingtonstatestandard.com), an independent, nonprofit news organization that produces original reporting on policy and politics.

More in Politics

House, Senate release spending proposals

Supplemental budgets to be negotiated

Plan to cap how much landlords can raise rent moves ahead

Statewide caps on annual rent increases could take effect in… Continue reading

State House approves unemployment benefits for strikers

Workers who are on strike or locked out of their… Continue reading

Chapman explains votes

Rep. Mike Chapman was among the few Democrats who voted… Continue reading

Democrats Franz, Randall stockpile cash in battle for US House position

Cash is flowing into campaign coffers of two Democrats dueling for an… Continue reading

Ruling: Trump to stay on primary ballot

Eight voters argued Jan. 6 actions made him ineligible

Should police be allowed to engage in high-speed pursuits if they just suspect someone is engaged in a crime? The state Legislature is set to debate that issue following verification of a citizen initiative that gives police more leeway in decision making. (Mary Murphy/Washington State Journal)
State Legislature to debate high-speed police pursuits

Initiative 2113 would amend law to be ‘reasonable suspicion’

State officials turn to schools in opioid fight

Legislation would require fentanyl-use prevention education once per year

Eight voters challenge Trump on Washington state ballot

Kitsap judge to hear arguments Tuesday

Nisqually Tribal Chairman Willie Frank III, right, discusses the newly designed statue mockup of his father, Billy Frank Jr., with other attendees at Wednesday’s unveiling. A full-scale, bronze statue of Billy Frank Jr. will be placed in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., next year. (Laurel Demkovich/Washington State Standard)
Design unveiled for Billy Frank Jr. statue at U.S. capitol

Bronze rendering will honor Native American fishing rights activist

Members of the House, including Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Gig Harbor, and Rep. Eric Robertson, R-Sumner, at front, walk into the House chambers during opening ceremonies on the first day of the legislative session at the Washington state Capitol on Monday in Olympia. (Lindsey Wasson/The Associated Press)
Legislature kicks off with a housing focus

Fentanyl deaths, climate change top topics as well