The Associated Press
EVERETT — Complicated campaign-finance investigations against initiative promoter Tim Eyman and others are straining the budget of Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission.
The commission is asking the governor and lawmakers for $889,000 in the 2019 supplemental budget to help pay legal bills from the Attorney General’s Office, The Daily Herald of Everett reported. It’s also asking for about $2 million for legal bills in the next two-year budget — more than double what the agency received in the current budget.
“The only hole in our budget is the attorney general’s cost,” said Peter Lavallee, the commission’s executive director. “I anticipate there will continue to be significant costs from existing cases and future referrals.”
The commission, created by voter initiative in 1972, enforces the state’s campaign finance laws. It maintains a database of political contributions and expenditures. Its staff reviews and investigates complaints of finance law violations.
Commissioners can refer serious and complicated cases of alleged campaign violations to the attorney general, whose office can obtain larger penalties than the commission. Successful lawsuits can help recoup legal fees.
Commission staff investigated allegations that Eyman secretly moved money between two initiative campaigns in 2012 and received kickbacks from the firm that collected signatures for the measures.
Commissioners referred the case to Attorney General Bob Ferguson in September 2015, and Ferguson sued Eyman early last year. The attorney general billed the commission just under $490,000 for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Eyman has denied wrongdoing.
Another complicated, expensive case targeted the Grocery Manufacturing Association for alleged violations in a 2013 initiative campaign. An $18 million verdict for the state is under appeal.