Today's Loser: The liberal blog Daily Kos.

The liberal website Daily Kos went with a story that opponents of Democratic establishment First District Congressional candidate Suzan DelBene (running against netroots fave Darcy Burner), have been shopping around town: DelBene has run afoul of federal elections law. The story doesn't appear to hold up.

The claim is that DelBene became a candidate last year by spending more than $5,000—which would mean she was late filing her personal financial disclosure report with the Federal Elections Commission. It's true that DelBene crossed the $5,000 threshold last year; the expenditures showed up in her recent campaign finance reports, which she filed after officially becoming a candidate in the first quarter. Candidates who cross that threshold in an off-election year are required to file personal financial disclosure reports within 30 days.

Daily Kos reports:

This isn't a laughing matter: knowingly and willingly failing to file this form is a felony that is punishable by up to five years in jail and a $50,000 fine. And based on sources who have knowledge of House Ethics Committee requirements, there are no exemptions from this: if a campaign expense is legally reportable to the Federal Elections Commission, it qualifies toward the $5,000 threshold for House Ethics rules as well.

That may be what a source with knowledge of House ethics requirements tells Daily Kos, but the actual text of the requirements, which the House Ethics Counsel referred me to this afternoon, are pretty clear. Directions for filling out the Form B, or financial disclosure form, defers to the definitions spelled out by the FEC: "The term candidate for the purposes of the [Ethics in Government Act] is the same found in ... the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971." In other words: the House Ethics rules follow the FEC rules.

The spokeswoman at the FEC referred us to page one of the FEC campaign guide, which begins by laying out an exemption to the $5,000 threshold rule known as "testing the waters."

That exemption states: "An individual may first want to 'test the waters'—that is, explore the feasibility of becoming a candidate. ... An individual who merely conducts selected testing the waters activities ... does not have to register or report as a candidate even if the individual raises or spends more than $5,000 on those activities (i.e., the dollar threshold that would normally trigger candidate registration). ... Examples of permissible testing-the-waters activities include polling, travel and telephone calls undertaken to determine whether the individual should become a candidate."

The DelBene expenditure was for organizing fundraising lists, which the campaign says, constitutes "testing the waters" rather than campaigning or promoting the candidate.

And even more explicitly, on page five, the FEC rules state:

An individual triggers registration and reporting responsibilities under the Act when campaign activity exceeds $5,000 in either contributions or expenditures. (Money raised and spent to test the waters does not count toward this dollar threshold until the individual decides to run for federal office or conducts activities that indicate he or she is actively campaigning rather than testing the waters. (See Chapter 1, “Testing theWaters.”)

That last bit—"until the individual decides to run for office"—is why the expenditure ultimately showed up in DelBene's campaign finance reports.

Meanwhile, if people are interested in DelBene's personal finances, she's filed them before—when she ran in 2010 and for the state, when she became director of the state Department of Revenue. She'll file a new one on May 15 per FEC rules. (When you declare your candidacy in an election year, you file 30 days after you declare or on May 15, whichever comes later. DelBene declared in January.)

Go here, type in "DelBene," and you can read her previous personal finance statements. She's totally loaded.

Today's Winner: State Rep. Andy Billig (D-3, Spokane).

Hot on the heels of news that longtime state senate majority leader Lisa Brown (D-3) is stepping down, liberal state Rep. Andy Billig (D-3, Spokane) announced that he was running for Brown's seat---with the senator's blessing. Billig, a minor-league basbeball team owner, is big on scrapping corporate tax breaks.

In a statement, Brown said that "one of the reasons I feel comfortable leaving the Senate is that I have complete confidence in Andy." Billig also got the nod from his house seatmate Timm Ormsby, who has been in the house much longer than Billig---about nine years, compared to Billig's relatively modest two.
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