Ex-GOP candidate asks PDC to repeal rule
Attorney says order to forfeit campaign money is based on 'flawed' statute


A former Republican candidate for attorney general has petitioned the Public Disclosure Commission to repeal a rule that could force the Republican Party to give up $6.6 million in campaign contributions.

Richard Pope, who practices law in Shoreline, wrote in a 23-page letter to PDC Director Vicki Rippie that the rules in question are vague and confusing and raise constitutional questions.

"The PDC's conclusion is flawed due to a great many reasons," Pope wrote in his letter to Rippie.

Under state law, the PDC must respond to Pope's petition within 60 days. PDC officials said Monday they'd had little chance to digest Pope's arguments, but they refuted his main points.


Last week, the PDC told the state Republican Party to forfeit to the general fund $6.6 million in contributions from 2000 and 2001 because the donors -- the Republican National Committee and two Republican congressional committees -- failed to properly file the C-5 disclosure forms required of federal donors to state campaigns. The PDC gave the party until Sept. 7 to respond to the request.

Pope, who in 1996 lost a bid for attorney general to Christine Gregoire, said he is not acting on behalf of the Republican Party and did not consult it before filing his petition. He said the PDC rules as enforced are unfair to both Democrats and Republicans.

In his petition, Pope makes two main points. He argues that the RCW in question, which requires all "nonreporting committees" to file C-5s, offers no definition of what a nonreporting committee is.

"The statute is so convoluted and circular that it's hard for anyone to understand it," Pope said in an interview.

Established rules

PDC Spokesman Doug Ellis pointed out that the C-5 requirements have been on the books for nearly 30 years and have been clearly laid out in previous enforcement actions. "It's not like these are just coming up out of the blue," he said.

Pope's other argument is that requiring the forfeiture of potentially large sums of money amounts to an unfair penalty, potentially violating the Constitution's equal protection clause. In the case of other PDC violations, the most the commission can fine offenders is $2,500.

"That's a drastic distinction," Pope said.

The difference, according to PDC Assistant Director Susan Harris, is that requiring forfeiture is not a penalty; rather, it's a remedy for a contribution made illegal by the donor's failure to report it.

Still, Harris said the PDC will study Pope's claims within the 60-day time frame. It could then adopt them in a rule-making procedure, or give an explanation for why it chooses to reject them.

Pope said he hopes the Republican Party will consider his petition as it decides how to respond to the PDC's request -- especially considering the standoff could result in legal action between the party and the PDC.

"I am a Republican, and I'm worried about the effects this could have on the party," Pope said. "I do hope the party looks at what I have to say."

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