Earlier this month, the Freedom Foundation filed a complaint against the Washington State Council of County and City Employees/AFSCME Council 2 (WSCCCE) with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) alleging the union failed to report tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to its political committee and consistently reported other contributions and expenditures late.
WSCCCE represents thousands of municipal government employees in Washington. State records indicate the union’s political committee is funded almost entirely with general dues collected from its members. In 2018 alone, the committee reported receiving $90,750 in cash contributions from WSCCCE itself. It received only $200 from other sources.
However, as documented in the complaint, WSCCCE has consistently failed to disclose the value of administrative services it provides to the political committee.
There are two ways for services provided to a political committee to be reported. If a person or entity provides services to the political committee at no cost or below fair market value, the political committee must report receiving in-kind contributions from the person or entity. If the services are purchased by the political committee at their fair market value, the political committee should disclose purchasing the services as an expenditure and list the vendor.
In this case, the committee received substantial administrative services from WSCCCE. The committee is managed by union staff from union premises. However, the committee did not report receiving the union’s services as in-kind contributions, nor did it report reimbursing WSCCCE for the fair market value of the services provided.
Using federal tax records, the complaint estimates that just the time spent by union president Chris Dugovich administering the political committee was probably worth about $36,000 from 2014-18.
To make matters worse, the complaint uncovered that, over the course of the five-year statute of limitations, WSCCCE’s political committee reported receiving at least 35 cash contributions totaling at least $379,566 after the disclosure deadlines established by law, totaling at least 893 late days.
Over the same period, the fund filed at least 16 forms regarding its expenditures after legal deadlines, totaling 79 late days and reflecting $163,167.52 in expenditures.
The complaint is the latest in a series of Freedom Foundation investigations that have discovered government unions violating state election laws.
While, in prior years, state law has permitted the Freedom Foundation to bring enforcement litigation against the offending unions directly if state authorities do not act, changes in state campaign finance laws made by Washington’s legislature in 2018 and 2019 have largely centralized enforcement authority in the PDC, an administrative agency whose commissioners are appointed by the governor.
Hopefully the PDC treats the violations committed by WSCCCE as seriously as it should.
Under current state law, the PDC has 90 days from the submission of the complaint to determine how to proceed.
The complaint has been assigned Case No. 51086.