Judge Larsen settles with state on alleged campaign finance violations

She was accused of failing to ‘timely and properly’ report an in-kind contribution worth thousands.

Cindy Larsen

Cindy Larsen

EVERETT — Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Cindy Larsen will pay a $2,000 fine as part of a settlement with the Attorney General’s Office on allegations she violated campaign finance laws in the 2016 election.

Larsen and the state reached an agreement Oct. 31, and visiting Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy approved it Nov. 3. It is filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.

The judgment was entered Nov. 3. The fine must be paid before the end of November.

“I am thankful this matter has been resolved,” Larsen said. “I have agreed to a reasonable penalty and certainly will not repeat the mistakes I made during the 2016 campaign.

“It certainly has been a learning experience for me,” Larsen said. “As a first-time candidate I have learned a ton about election laws, the process, how it works and the requirements.”

As part of the agreement, Attorney General Bob Ferguson did not seek to recoup any of the costs encumbered in the agency’s yearlong investigation.

“We do not discuss details of negotiations,” Brionna Aho, Ferguson’s communications director, wrote in an email.

The investigation arose out of allegations made during the campaign against Larsen, then a deputy county prosecutor, who was one of four candidates seeking a judicial seat. They related to her involvement with A Safer Snohomish County, a political committee working to pass a criminal justice sales tax measure on the same primary ballot.

On Oct. 17, 2016, Ferguson filed a civil complaint accusing Larsen of failing to “timely and properly” report an in-kind contribution worth thousands of dollars prior to the Aug. 2 primary.

The allegations stemmed from photos of Larsen that appeared in A Safer Snohomish County mailer supporting passage of the ballot measure. Larsen was not identified as a judicial candidate in the mailer. The committee spent nearly $54,000 on the mailing sent to tens of thousands of voters.

Two citizens filed complaints with the state Public Disclosure Commission and one filed with the Attorney General’s Office, which led to Ferguson’s action.

State attorneys contended Larsen benefited from the mailing, making it necessary to disclose it as an in-kind contribution. They also alleged the value of that contribution exceeded the $2,000 limit for a judicial race in the primary, another apparent violation.

“Based on its timing, media, value, area of distribution, and the fact that it identified a candidate for office, A Safer Snohomish County’s mailer constituted an electioneering communication,” state attorneys wrote in the original complaint.

As part of the settlement, Larsen does not directly admit wrongdoing.

“The agreed judgment says the defendants will pay the civil penalty for violations enumerated in the complaint. The document does not explicitly contain an admission,” Aho said.

Meanwhile, the state Public Disclosure Commission will now determine what, if any, steps to take related to alleged violations of campaign finance laws by A Safer Snohomish County. The commission put its review on hold until the Larsen matter had been resolved by Ferguson’s office.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield @herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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