The city's Ethics and Elections Commission still hasn't dismissed a complaint by Mayor Mike McGinn's reelection campaign alleging that two independent expenditure campaigns for challenger Ed Murray attempted to hide the sources of their funding. The campaign filed the complaint well over a month ago, prompting speculation that the commission may launch a full investigation into the complaint.
The McGinn camp alleged that the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy—the political arm of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce—colluded with a pro-Murray IE, People for Ed Murray, to hide the fact that much of the money that CASE contributed to People for Ed Murray came from "large corporations" like the developers Vulcan and Richard Hedreen. Those developers (and other businesses) gave thousands to CASE, which turned around and contributed to People for Ed Murray. The group produced several mailers supporting Murray, including one featuring former mayor Charley Royer.
Throughout the campaign, McGinn sought to portray Murray as the establishment, Chamber, business candidate.
The charges in the CASE/People for Ed Murray complaint are similar to a complaint filed by AG Bob Ferguson against the anti-GMO labeling (I-522) campaign, which was forced to list its actual contributors after Ferguson uncovered evidence that they were passing donations through an umbrella group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, enabling them to conceal the original sources of the contributions.
Of course, one big difference is that the pass through contributions to CASE are actually public—you can find them listed in CASE's campaign disclosure documents at the Public Disclosure Commission, as we did. The essence of Ferguson's case was that the contributors to the anti-I-522 campaign were actually impossible to trace.
Ethics commission director Wayne Barnett (who makes the final call about whether to investigate complaints or dismiss them) wouldn't say whether he plans to launch a full investigation. (Ethics rules require the director to complete a preliminary investigation within 30 days or dismiss a case, with a potential 30-day extension, but there's no specific deadline for dismissing a case). "That is confidential," Barnett said. Chamber spokesman Terri Hiroshima was similarly reticent.
The next commission meeting is November 6—one day after Election Day.