Monday, September 12, 2016

Is it time to get rid of the Public Disclosure Commission?

A long time ago, there was an initiative put out there... I-276, if memory serves, where an idea was voted into being: the idea that limits on free speech would be put into place in the form of a Public Disclosure Commission.

On the surface, the possibilities had merit.

limiting political donations (Not so much, as far as I can see) regulating various aspects of campaigns and reporting by these same campaigns as to who was giving them/lending them money and what they were spending that money for.

The problem?

Even when those regulated by this law and this commission break the rules or the law... it takes them so long to act (if they do act) and so long to respond... so long to do anything... combined with the toothless nature of their enforcement... that the commission has become, essentially, worthless.

On September 1st, for example, I filed a PDC compliant against my worthless brother in law, County Char Marc Boldt, for what appears to be the theft of $5000 from his 2012 campaign fund, wherein he, personally, took $5000 claiming the expenditure was o repay a loan that he never made himself.

This was the auto-response:

    Thank you for contacting the Public Disclosure Commission.

    We have received your complaint, and a member of the compliance and enforcement team will be in touch with you shortly.

    You can update your complaint by replying to this email.

    Washington Public Disclosure Commission

Today is September 12th.  Even though I have emailed the PDC twice since then, including today, I have heard absolutely nothing back from them.

"Shortly," indeed.

Last Fall, I filed a complaint against Sen. Ann "Gas Tax" Rivers for lying, by $175,000, about the amount of money her campaign had received... for what turned out to be, essentially, a year.

The PDC has the evidence, has the documentation, acted unilaterally to reduce the amount of money she was showing by that figure or so LAST FEBRUARY, and they STILL haven't adjudicated the case.

On the 1st, in response to my request, I received the following from the Executive Director of the PDC:

    We have finished a draft report of investigation.  This case has involved numerous reporting problems and it has taken a long time to sort through the materials and get contribution and expenditure reports corrected.  I’m not going to provide more information until we are ready to release documents.

    Evelyn Fielding Lopez
    Executive Director
    Public Disclosure Commission,
    Phone: 360-664-2735 




Are they being threatened?  Does Ann Rivers have the kind of political muscle that enables her to pick up the phone and "Clinton" these kinds of negative reports?

Several, perhaps DOZENS of complaints have come in, been investigated and then adjudicated since I filed MY complaint against Rivers.

Why were those moved ahead of mine?

What does the PDC know and why are they sitting on the outcome?

Anything I suggest would be speculation.  But what IS clear is that this organizations inability to respond to documented, obvious violations of the law and Public Trust in a TIMELY manner makes them, essentially, worthless.

Last January, I'd had enough:

I emailed the Attorney General's office and the Legislative Ethics Board of the PDC's multiple failures to investigate this issue.

    From: K.J. Hinton
    Sent: Friday, January 29, 2016 12:48 PM
    To: Evelyn Lopez <>
    Subject: I have been trying to get this issue resolved for months.

    I sent the following to the AG’s office and the Legislative Ethics Board and am providing you with a copy to insure that you and the Commission know what’s going on here.    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Dear Mr. Attorney General,

    I am writing to you in the hopes that your good offices can take a look at a current issue involving the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

    Approximately a year ago, I was reviewing my state senator’s PDC filings when I noticed a huge jump in claimed funds raised.

    Overnight, the amount exploded from around $7000 to around $175,000.

    The date was February 10, 2015.

    I looked at the number of donors at that time being reported by Rivers for the 2016 campaign cycle (74) and I knew that such a figure was impossible…. if each donor had maxed out to Rivers, she wouldn’t have even $74,000.  Further, there was no indication of a transfer from surplus funds that would have accounted for the remainder of the money, particularly since, to the best of my ability to look up her surplus fund account, she had never accrued more than $30,000.

    I didn’t say or do anything about it, but I noted that with the increase, this first term senator had somehow managed to become THE best-funded legislator or candidate for the 2016 cycle in the entire state.  By far.  More than, for example, the Senate Majority Leader.

    I found that a bit odd, but I believed that the system would correct itself, so I took no action.

    Months went by.  Nothing happened.

    Now, the importance of the PDC filings is obvious: I won’t review them here.  But the visual of having a huge fund-raising edge over any other serving legislator or candidate speaks to using this vastly inflated number as part of a shield to deter any other prospective candidate from filing against her in the upcoming election cycle.

    While I and a few others know the number she is currently showing (Around $255,000 or so… still the most in the state) is vastly inflated, those pondering a political run against Rivers would certainly entertain second thoughts upon seeing her war chest.

    To that end, I called the PDC office late last summer and discussed this situation with an investigator, requesting that she look into this issue informally to get the number corrected.  While talking to me, she looked up Rivers’ file and determined that on February 10 of last year, something had happened to inflate the number.  I asked her to look into it, contact Rivers and ask her to correct the number informally.

    Months went by and nothing happened.  Rivers' number kept growing.

    Finally, on October 5, I filed a formal complaint with the PDC, via fax, complaining that the number, which has been certified to me by an accountant as being totally inaccurate, be corrected.

    I received no acknowledgement of any kind.

    Weeks went by.  On November 23, I again filed the same complaint with the PDC, a copy of the first complaint to get the number corrected.

    Again, I received no acknowledgement of any kind.  More weeks went by.

    On New Years Eve, I contacted the PDC via email to find out what was going on.  They replied to me on January 4th of this year that the investigator who had been assigned the case, Bill Lemp, would be out of the office until the 6th of January and that he should provide me with an update at that time.

    He did so.

    Hi Kelly,

    I am working with Senator Ann Rivers new treasurer, once I received the information I have requested I will be able to move forward with this case.  I have had a face-to-face meeting with Senator River's treasurer and our filing specialists are also working with the treasurer.

    Once I make a definite decision on how to proceed with this case, I will let you know.


    William A. Lemp III

    Lead Political Financial Investigator

    OK.  Reading between the lines, he’s acknowledged there certainly IS an issue here, otherwise, no face to face meeting with Rivers’ treasurer would have been required, nor would their “filing specialists” need to “work with” the treasurer.

    I thanked Mr. Lemp for the update, on January 6th and on January 11, he responded by telling me that as ”new information comes available and I am able to move forward on this case I will let you know.”

    I have heard nothing since: I emailed Mr. Lemp on Wednesday asking for an update and I have heard nothing.

    Time is running out to get this fixed. 

    As I see it, the PDC knows the number is inaccurate, but they are unable to determine exactly how it became that way.

    Rivers has obviously known the number is wildly inaccurate, but because it benefits her in her effort to keep her seat, she has done nothing to address the issue, allowing this obvious lie to stand.

    The issues are clear:

    1. Can PDC computers be manipulated in any way?

    2.  Why didn't Rivers act to address this issue?  There's no way she doesn't know; there's no way she hasn't known for almost a year that this number is flat wrong.

    3.  Why has it taken, literally, almost 4 months of formal requests and months before that after an informal request to even begin to address this issue?

    4.  Why is this taking so long?  Is Rivers exerting some sort of influence, directly or indirectly, on the PDC staff?  What's going on here?

    The reality is that I have tried to use the system in place to get this issue resolved.  No formal investigation is taking place, or if it is taking place, it’s not listed on the PDC web site.  I have called, emailed, explained and cajoled… but nothing is being done that I can see and Rivers’ fundraising number as I write this remains unchanged… at a quarter of a million dollars, that she simply does not appear to have.

    I ask your office to look into this and take the necessary action to address this matter.

    At a minimum, the people of this state MUST be able to maintain confidence in the system we voted into place and look at the PDC web site assured that what they find there is absolutely accurate numbers as to how much and who is providing it and where is it going?

    As of this writing, I’m already wondering how many other reporting candidates’ numbers are inaccurate and who else may be showing the incorrect information that we count on in our state’s electoral process.

    Thank you for your time.

    K.J. Hinton

    Constituent – 18th Legislative District.


    Katrina Asay, Chair of the PDC

    Anne Levinson
    Grant Degginger
    John Bridges

    Legislative Ethics Board

A few days later, I finally got a response:

Evelyn Lopez, Executive Director of the PDC wrote me and said, in part via email:
I’m not going to offer you any excuses for the delay on your complaint—we’ve let you down.
Indeed.  In fact, they had completely and miserably failed in every way, the primary reason they even exist.


There's no excuse for this.  It doesn't take this long to hold a trial for murder.

If the PDC cannot do their job in a timely manner, then it's time to get rid of them and replace them with some agency that can.

SOMEONE has made the deliberate decision to stall on this case.  I can only imagine why.  But in reality, since there IS no acceptable reason, it really doesn't matter.

The primary function of the PDC is to insure timely, transparent and accurate reporting.  The lie by Rivers concerning her campaign donations goes to the very heart of the reason for the PDC's existence.

This, then, is a total and complete failure on their part, which calls into question their worth and reason for being.

I say, if they're either not... or can't, going to do their job?

Then they have to go.

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