Ethics beef against county council candidate flops

By Warren Cornwall

Herald Writer

An ethics complaint against Republican Jeff Sax’s campaign for Snohomish County Council fizzled when it missed a filing deadline and when state records suggested much of the complaint was unfounded.

The environmental group Washington Conservation Voters on Monday told the county ethics commission Sax’s campaign had taken thousands of dollars from nonexistent companies apparently tied to developers.

However, the complaint was promptly dismissed by the commission clerk as too late in the campaign season, under a county code designed to bar last-minute complaints aimed at influencing an election.

Sax and the contributors branded the effort a campaign tactic aimed at smearing his bid for the council.

"I think it’s absolutely nonsense, and obviously Mr. Somers’ campaign must be getting in a panic if they’re filing a complaint just to obscure the issues," Sax said, referring to his Democratic opponent, Dave Somers.

The political arm of the environmental group is one of Somers’ largest donors, giving $2,000 to his campaign, according to state campaign filings.

But Somers said he knew nothing of the complaint until Monday night, after it was filed.

"I didn’t direct anybody to look into this," he said.

The conservation group isn’t working for the Somers campaign, said Bill Monto, a field organizer with the organization that filed the complaint.

The complaint revolves largely around seven companies tied to land development that have given a combined $4,100 to the Sax campaign. The environmental group said it could find no evidence the companies exist.

However, a check of Secretary of State records turned up four of those companies as active corporations. People affiliated with the other three names said those exist as well.

Much of the complaint revolved around companies affiliated with members of the Robinett family, who run a number of Everett-based development companies, many of which donated to the Sax campaign.

"We’re talking about one family’s undue influence on a candidate," Monto said.

The donations of multiple companies tied to the same family have drawn complaints in past elections. However, the state’s campaign finance watchdog, the Public Disclosure Commission, dismissed a similar complaint about the Robinetts in 2000, saying different companies can each make their own donations.

Martin Robinett, who is affiliated with several development companies, said everything they were doing is legal.

Robinett said he gave money to Sax’s campaign because the candidate supported a "balance between jobs and the environment."

You can call Herald Writer Warren Cornwall at 425-339-3463 or send e-mail to

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