Press Release: AGO files campaign finance complaints against state lawmakers, former candidate

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) today announced the filing of three separate complaints in Thurston County Superior Court: one against state Representative Strom Peterson, one against former candidate for 42nd Legislative District representative Sharlaine LaClair, and one against state Representative Jeff Morris. The complaints allege deficient campaign finance filings.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson recused himself from any involvement in the Peterson and Morris matters.

In February 2017, the AGO received a Citizen Action Notice alleging multiple violations of the state’s public disclosure laws by Peterson during his 2016 campaign.

A review by AGO staff determined that Peterson failed to provide a detailed description of $3,255.97 in expenses (including the vendors used by his campaign consultant), failed to disclose over $2,048 in campaign debt, and failed to timely disclose at least $13,522 in expenditures and in-kind contributions. The late disclosures were between six and 31 days late, and primarily related to post-election surplus fund transfers.

Also in February 2017, the AGO received a Citizen Action Notice alleging multiple violations of the state’s campaign disclosure laws by LaClair during her 2016 campaign.

A review by AGO staff determined that LaClair failed to timely disclose debts totaling $31,980 and reported a $601 expense 33 days late. Staff also determined that LaClair failed to disclose a $454 in-kind contribution she made in the form of her filing fee, failed to properly disclose committee officers (including persons making expenditures on behalf of her campaign), and failed to include sponsor identification on a campaign mailing.

Finally, in January 2017, the AGO received a Citizen Action Notice alleging multiple violations of the state’s campaign disclosure laws by Morris during his 2016 campaign.

A review by AGO staff determined that only one allegation had any merit: Morris failed to timely disclose contributions totaling $5,250.

In each case, the state seeks penalties and injunctive relief. The defendants will have 20 days from the date they are served to respond to the state’s complaints.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Linda Dalton and Assistant Attorney General Walter Smith are handling the cases.

When the Attorney General’s Office receives a Citizen Action Notice, it has 45 days to investigate and respond to the citizen. If the Attorney General’s Office or local prosecutor does not start litigation, the individual may sue in the name of the state. If litigation is successful, any penalties awarded would go to the state, and the individual’s attorney could recover attorney fees and costs.

The Attorney General’s Office enforces the state’s campaign finance disclosure law to ensure free, open and fair elections in Washington state. Since becoming Attorney General, Attorney General Ferguson has devoted more agency resources to campaign finance casework.

Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725

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