Agency: Pike, Benton violated campaign laws

They asked for money for county council candidates during legislative session

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Two local lawmakers violated state law by soliciting donations for Clark County council candidates during the legislative session, a Public Disclosure Commission spokeswoman said.

Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, and Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, have campaigned, respectively, for Julie Olson and Mary Benton. Both are Republican candidates for the District 2 seat on the Clark County council.

However, a state law freezing any solicitation of donations by legislators during the session also prohibits lawmakers from raising money on behalf of candidates for other offices, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said.

On Saturday, Don Benton, who is Mary Benton’s husband, sent an email to subscribers of his political action committee newsletter encouraging people to vote for his wife and contribute to her campaign. He posted the same statement on his public Facebook page.

“We will need volunteers, contributions and endorsements,” Don Benton wrote.

The Columbian forwarded Don Benton’s statement to Anderson for review.

“This is bad,” Anderson said. “He needs to stop.”

She added that if Benton used any money from his own Senate campaign political action committee to campaign for his wife, he needs to personally reimburse the campaign.

On Monday, Don Benton said he did not believe he’d violated the legislative freeze by campaigning for his wife, but said if that’s the case, he will “deal with the consequences.”

Benton’s wife did not return a request for comment.

Serious punishment unlikely

Pike, meanwhile, has been advocating for Olson on Facebook since she announced her campaign for the Clark County council. On Friday, Pike hosted a kickoff party and fundraiser for Olson’s campaign at her private home, Shangri-La Farm, in Camas.

The following Monday, Olson sent a press release saying that her campaign has raised more than $10,000, which includes fundraising at Pike’s farm.

“It’s not OK if they had the party and they raised money there,” Anderson said.

Pike did not return a request for comment. Olson, however, defended Pike.

“It certainly would not be something she would do intentionally,” Olson said.

Neither Pike nor Benton is likely to see any serious punishment from the violations, however, and neither council candidate will face any repercussions. Anderson said she’ll call both lawmakers to tell them to stop.

“You can’t unring a bell,” Anderson said.