A Tacoma political group that distributed mailers attacking state senate candidate Jack Connelly last year violated campaign finance law by failing to report its donations and spending in a timely manner, the Public Disclosure Commission ruled Wednesday.
Ken Miller, a local political activist who chaired the Tacomans PAC, described his group’s belated financial filings on Wednesday as an honest mistake.
“I didn’t dispute the facts,” Miller said in an e-mail. “I misunderstood the requirements and so violated the reporting rules.”
Two other allegations brought against Miller’s PAC – that it failed to accurately complete its registration and did not timely deposit contributions – were dismissed.
Made up of supporters of then-state Rep. Jeannie Darneille, Connelly’s opponent in the 27th District senate race, the Tacomans PAC distributed thousands of mailers across the city in July and August that attacked Connelly’s ties to the Martin Luther King Jr. Housing Development Association.
The mailers claimed Connelly sat on the governing board of the affordable housing nonprofit when it misspent a $4.4 million state grant meant to build a business center on Tacoma’s Hilltop.
One of the mailers, which depicted an evidence bag, a fingerprint diagram and an unshaven man wearing an FBI hat, stated: “The FBI investigates MLKHDA for ‘losing’ millions of tax dollars, and who’s on the governing board? Jack Connelly.”
Connelly later disputed the mailers, contending the stated amount of misspent money was overblown and that he wasn’t an active board member at the time.
After the PAC failed to report the independent expenditures within a required timeframe, two Connelly supporters — Jim King Jr. and Virginia Douglas – separately filed complaints with the PDC, leading to Wednesday’s ruling.
“It took them a while to file anything, but they actually did end up filing some reports that showed contributions other than from Ken Miller,” PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said Wednesday of the Tacomans PAC.
In all, the group spent about $20,400 on the mailers, with Miller bankrolling more than $13,000 of that via a personal loan, according to reports filed to date. Ten others collectively contributed $4,100.
They include Marshall McClintock, Sharon Coleman, Charles Bingham, Richard Bartolatz, Kim Burkes, Michael Jarvis, Craig Larson and John McCluskey, all of Tacoma; Phyllis Izant of University Place and Lonnie Johns-Brown of Seattle.
Despite Connelly’s record self-funding of nearly $1 million in the 27th District senate race last year, Darneille easily defeated him to win the four-year term. Both candidates ran as Democrats.