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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Republicans renew call for PDC chief to quit over Probst case

They say letter about ad shows she favors Democrat

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer
Published: November 2, 2016, 6:20pm

Republicans are renewing their calls for the suspension of the head of the state’s campaign finance watchdog agency, accusing her of revealing a political bias to help Democrat Tim Probst in his tight race against Republican Lynda Wilson for the state Senate.

Mark Lamb, an attorney representing top Washington Republicans, told the state’s Public Disclosure Commission on Wednesday its executive director should be ousted for undermining the public’s confidence.

“This agency is … the umpire of campaign finance and ethics in Washington state politics,” said Lamb, who is representing House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen and Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler. “Tonight, we have Game 7 of the World Series. If we had a situation where the umpire had even for one play been actually wearing the uniform or pulling for one team or the other, that person wouldn’t be umping for Game 7.”

Lamb accused Evelyn Fielding Lopez, the PDC’s executive director, of making false statements — but more importantly, he said, of inserting herself into politics.

“Putting aside the issue of truth or false … the issue is, should the PDC director parachute in at the request of one candidate and say they don’t think an ad is accurate? That is completely inappropriate,” he said, and claimed it was also unprecedented behavior.

The controversy traces back to June, when a research analyst with the Washington State Republican Party filed a complaint against Probst with the state’s disclosure commission. The state commission investigated and ruled that Probst had violated state campaign finance law by not filing a personal financial affairs report in a timely manner.

The commission’s finding was used in attack ads against Probst in his tight race with Wilson. The two are vying to replace longtime Sen. Don Benton.

At Probst’s request, Fielding Lopez wrote a letter last month clarifying that the commission had not found that Probst had hidden money from its oversight, as claimed in the ads.

“I have reviewed the political advertisements that contain these accusations, and they are not correct,” Fielding Lopez wrote. Probst used the letter of clarification in his own advertisement.

Fielding Lopez said her actions were warranted.

“They talked about a Public Disclosure Commission case (in the advertisements), and I clarified what was in that case and what was not in that case. … It was not inappropriate for me to do so,” she said.

Fielding Lopez said she anticipates she will continue in her role as the head of the state’s campaign-watchdog agency.

“I serve at the pleasure of the commission. If the commission decides they don’t want me, they have the authority to remove me. Until that happens, I have a lot of work to do,” she said.

Top Republicans are expected to file a complaint with the Washington State Bar Association.

Columbian Political Writer