As Publicola has reported, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity Washington, a chapter of a national group with ties to the tea party movement, sent out mailers attacking Democratic state senators without reporting the spending to the state.
Voters can’t find the group on the Public Disclosure Commission’s website, so they can’t see who gave money to it — much as they couldn’t identify the donors behind hit pieces against state Sen. Jean Berkey put together by liberal consultant Moxie Media.
Attorney General Rob McKenna is suing Moxie. Now Democrats are pushing for a similar lawsuit against Americans for Prosperity. State party Chairman Dwight Pelz today filed a complaint with the PDC, Democrats’ second against AFP-Washington, saying the “secretive,” “right-wing” group is “refusing to disclose the source of its funds, in blatant violation of state law.”
While federal campaigns have turned into a free-for-all of nondisclosure in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, it’s supposed to be different in Washington.
Groups that run ads identifying a state candidate less than 60 days before the election are supposed to report it as an “electioneering communication,” even if they don’t explicitly tell people to vote for or against a candidate, like these mailers. Pelz said he didn’t know when the ads were mailed.
I haven’t yet been able to reach Kirby Wilbur, state director of Americans for Prosperity. (He’s also running for state Republican Party chairman, the Everett Herald reports.)
The group attacked Sens. Tracey Eide of Redondo and Rodney Tom of Medina, who both narrowly won, along with Sens. Randy Gordon and Eric Oemig, who were losing similarly tight races.
Democrats have also written directly to McKenna asking him to take the case. Pelz accused McKenna, a likely GOP candidate for governor in 2012, of a double standard. He’s “suing Democrats who sponsored an independent expenditure, claiming they filed misleading reports; but he refuses to take legal action against Republicans who filed no reports,” Pelz said in a statement.
But McKenna hasn’t refused, and he seems to be following the same practice he did in the Moxie case. His office says he’s waiting to see if the PDC refers the case to its office.