Freedom Foundation

Union-backed think-tank fined $30k for campaign finance violations

Yet another of the Freedom Foundation’s investigations has flushed out a labor-affiliated organization actively engaged in a scheme to hide the extent of its political activity.

On Monday, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AGO) announced that the Washington Budget and Policy Center would pay fines and penalties totaling $30,545 for violating state campaign finance laws.

Filed in Dec. 2016, the AGO’s lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court stemmed from a formal Freedom Foundation complaint documenting how the Budget and Policy Center failed to report its activity and expenditures in opposition to Initiative 1366, a 2015 ballot measure backed by Tim Eyman that would have lowered the sales tax rate unless the legislature referred a state constitutional amendment to the voters requiring a two-thirds legislative majority to adopt any tax increases.

The brief press release from the AGO stated simply:

“The Center failed to properly report its independent expenditures in opposition to Initiative 1366 in 2015.

“A Thurston County Superior Court judge ordered the Center to pay $33,510 in penalties, with half suspended for four years contingent on no violations in that period, as well as $13,790 in attorney fees, court costs and costs of investigation.”

It failed to mention the lawsuit stemmed from a Freedom Foundation citizen action notice.

The state Fair Campaign Practices Act permits any citizen or entity to formally notify the AGO of alleged violations of the Act. If the AGO takes no enforcement action within 55 days of the notice, the citizen may file suit to enforce the Act in court on behalf of the state.

Founded in 2005, the Center is a left-of-center 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to “support the essential role of government in promoting a just and prosperous society.”

As such, it receives substantial financial support from government unions in Washington, which also consistently support higher taxes and oppose tax limitation measures.

The Center’s penalty marks the sixth time in less than two years that a Freedom Foundation complaint has spurred an AGO lawsuit ending in a penalty for government unions or their allies for violating election laws:

  • Sept. 23, 2016: The Attorney General fined the Washington State Labor Council nearly $26,000.
  • July 15, 2016: The Attorney General fined the Washington Association for Justice over $9,000.
  • Feb. 8, 2016: The Attorney General fined SEIU 925 and its political action committee nearly $45,000.
  • Jan. 29, 2016: The Attorney General fined SEIU 775 and its political action committee nearly $52,000.
  • Dec. 15, 2015: The Public Disclosure Commission fined the Labor Education and Research Center for engaging in unreported lobbying.