Public Disclosure Commission votes to issue formal guidance regarding candidate contributions for a different office

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) voted Thursday to issue formal guidance regarding candidates’ use of contributions received for a previous campaign for a different office.

Under state law (RCW 42.17A.490), a candidate who solicits contributions for a state, local or judicial office may not use any unspent contributions to seek a different office without first obtaining written approval from the persons or entities who contributed the money.

PDC staff previously advised candidates to seek permission and then report the funds as a lump-sum transfer, which is consistent with how transfers to a subsequent campaign for the same office are treated under a different section of law. When questions about that informal guidance recently were raised, PDC staff took the issue to the commission for a decision.

During Thursday’s special meeting called to discuss the issue, the commission backed an alternative interpretation of the existing law. Under the commission’s interpretation, such funds authorized for transfer to a campaign for a different office should be attributed to the individual donors in the new campaign’s reports and count toward applicable contribution limits for the new campaign.

The commission directed staff to advise campaigns of its interpretation and to return with a written proposal for formal adoption at the May 25 meeting.

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