Gov. Jay Inslee’s re-election committee did not violate state lobbying laws when it sent emails to supporters on issues and bills in front of lawmakers, the state Public Disclosure Commission decided Thursday.
Commissioners voted to recommend Attorney General Bob Ferguson take no further action on a complaint filed against the Democratic governor by the chairwoman of the state Republican Party, Susan Hutchison.
Hutchison alleged the emails amounted to personal grassroots lobbying. She argued any re-election funds spent to conduct such an effort constituted a personal use of campaign dollars that is not allowed under state election laws, according to the complaint.
An investigation by commission staff focused on seven emails sent by the Inslee campaign between December 2014 and May 2015. The emails asked readers to support specific initiatives backed by Inslee and to add their names to petitions.
Representatives of Inslee’s campaign told PDC staff that names and emails of respondents were entered into campaign databases but no petitions were ever created or sent to lawmakers.
“The campaign stated that it did not use the responses to present a petition or similar message to state legislators, that none of the names of the responding individuals were presented to state legislative officials, and that state legislative officials were not informed of the responses in any other way,” according to the staff report.
Tony Perkins, who conducted the investigation for the commission, told the panel Thursday that all the spending by the campaign had been properly disclosed and “there’s insufficient evidence to establish a violation.”
He recommended – and the commission concurred – against taking any further action.
Mike Tiufekchiev of Vancouver, a regional field director for the state GOP, testified before commissioners voted.
He said either the emails constituted lobbying or the governor’s campaign “systematically sent deceptive emails to supporters” because of references to petitions that were never sent. He called on Inslee to apologize to his supporters if that is the case.
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