Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Dec. 8, 2021

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Washington AG files finance complaint against Clark County Republicans

By , Columbian politics reporter

The Washington Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint Friday alleging campaign finance violations by the Clark County Republican Central Committee. The complaint was filed in the Thurston County Superior Court.

The AGO states the committee failed to timely report $586,268 in contributions and $463,079 in debts and expenditures dating back to 2012.

The complaint stems from a Citizen Action Notice the AGO received in September that alleged multiple violations of the state’s public disclosure laws.

Washington law requires political committees to report contribution information regularly for any contributions more than $25. Committees must also regularly report expenditures, debts and financial obligations.

This reporting duty falls to the Clark County Republican Party board, specifically the treasurer with board oversight.

The most recent treasurer, Suzanne Gerhardt, was removed from office during a special precinct committee officers meeting Oct. 17. State Committeeman Joe Wagner and State Committeewoman Katja Delevar were removed from the board at the same PCO meeting.

“Unfortunately, much of the current leadership’s time has been spent dealing with issues from the past,” said Chair David Gellatly. “We are a volunteer organization that transitions regularly, so there is always an ongoing learning curve in place.”

The specific reporting deficiencies include reporting 278 separate contribution reports up to 330 days late and 72 expenditures — such as political donations — up to 130 days late.

More than $176,000 in expenses after primary and general elections between 2013 and 2017, for example, were not disclosed before the election.

Of those delayed reported contributions, $33,720 were made to state and local candidates.

“By not timely reporting its contributions and expenditures, the committee inhibited the public’s right to know the source of the committee’s income and how it spent its funding,” according to an AGO press release.

This isn’t the first time the Clark County Republicans have faced a complaint for failing to properly disclose campaign expenditures. A similar complaint was filed with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission in August 2016.

Gellatly said the party is currently caught up on its reporting and will comply with the Attorney General’s Office.

“Our hope is to put new measures in place that better assist with transitions in the future,” he said. “My hope is we learn from the past as to not repeat it, while focusing on what we can do now and in the future to better represent our members and Republican constituents in Clark County.”

The state seeks penalties and injunctive relief. The Clark County Republican Central Committee has 20 days to respond to the complaint. Senior Assistant Attorney General Linda Dalton is overseeing the case.

Columbian politics reporter