Citizens Against Raising Car Tabs (CART) filed an ethics complaint this morning alleging that Transportation Choices Coalition and the Cascade Bicycle Club, two groups that are providing financial support to the Streets For All pro-car-tab campaign, "improperly used taxpayer funds to substantially underwrite" the campaign, which supports raising car-tab fees $60 to pay for Seattle transportation projects.

Their evidence: Both TCC and Cascade get money from the city of Seattle for their outreach and education efforts.

If that complaint sounds familiar, that's because Hoglund has made it before---most recently in 2008, when he accused TCC of improperly using city dollars to lobby and influence voters against a new elevated viaduct and for Sound Transit's light-rail extension proposal. The city dismissed that complaint on the grounds that the money the city provides to TCC goes to education and outreach, not campaigning. (The state auditor dismissed a similar complaint against TCC in 2009, ruling that Sound Transit's contributions to the group did not violate the state constitution because the money was segregated within the TCC's budget for public outreach about transit choices).

"Gene [makes this complaint] maybe not on an annual basis, but on a near-annual basis," says TCC director Rob Johnson. "Many organizations do get money from the city of Seattle and do lobbying work" separate from their education and outreach work, Johnson says. He says TCC is careful to segregate the money it uses for outreach from the money it uses for "issue-based campaigns"; because the group is organized as a C(3) nonprofit, it can't advocate for individual candidates.

A 501(C)3 nonprofit organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, but can't lobby for or against individual candidates. A 501(C)4 organization may lobby for or against candidates, but can't receive tax-deductible contributions. Many nonprofit organizations have both a 501(C)3 and a 501(C)4.

Unlike TCC, Cascade is both a C(3) and a C(4), so they are allowed to lobby for individual campaigns. Craig Benjamin, Cascade's policy and government affairs manager, says Cascade uses the money from its C(3), the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation, to run bike-safety classes for kids and adults, programs at schools, and helmet programs.

"Clearly, our opponent doesn't know anything about how a C(3) works," Benjamin says. "We're really disappointed that our opposition is doing everything they can to avoid talking about what Proposition 1 actually does" and instead focusing its efforts "this frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars."

City ethics and elections commission director Wayne Barnett says he hasn't seen the complaint yet, and "even if I did, I wouldn't want to comment on the record on a pending complaint."