A conservative activist who has successfully challenged Democratic candidates across the state over their public disclosure filings has brought a lawsuit against a former Clark County legislator.
On Thursday, Glen Morgan, a Thurston County resident who serves as the executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, sued former state Rep. Tim Probst, D- Vancouver, regarding his unsuccessful campaign for state Senate in 2016.
According to Morgan’s complaint, Probst’s campaign violated state election law by filing late campaign finance reports detailing $13,799.95 worth of contributions between April and September of 2016. Probst’s campaign was a total of 310 days late in filing these reports, and, as a result, the public was unable to see who was contributing to his campaign, according to the complaint. Additionally, Probst’s campaign was a total of 1,754 days late in filing $420,675.42 worth of campaign expenditures and debt, the complaints state.
The complaint also faults Probst’s campaign for making what it states are two illegal campaign contributions. They include $630 to the Clark County Democrats for “Annual Dinner Tickets” and $250 to the Young Democrats of Clark County for “Sponsorship for convention.” The complaint states that all of the violations were “intentional.”
Probst said that he had not seen the complaint filed against him. But he said that his campaign was transparent and he doesn’t think “there’s going to be any problems here.”
“It’s just sad that politics these days are even worse than usual,” he said.
In Washington, enforcement of the state’s election laws relies on interested parties to file complaints with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, which decides whether to take action or dismiss them.
Morgan has filed hundreds of complaints, primarily against Democratic politicians (including Probst) or political committees, with the commission. In the past month alone, he’s filed more than a dozen complaints. Critics have accused him of “weaponizing” the system.
In some cases, Morgan has followed up his complaints with citizen actions, lawsuits filed by individuals on behalf of the state. Under state law, before an individual can file a citizen action, they must give notice to both the state attorney general and the local prosecuting attorney.
If neither takes action within 45 days, the citizen may initiate a lawsuit on behalf of the state.
The lawsuit against Probst is a citizen action. It states that neither offices of Attorney General Bob Ferguson nor Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik (both Democrats) took action against Probst, clearing the way for Morgan to file suit.
The lawsuit was filed by Vancouver attorney Angus Lee.
In a statement sent by Lee, Morgan said that Probst, who served as a state representative from 2009 to 2013, is an experienced candidate and that this “case should help remind him that campaign transparency and our state’s campaign finance laws apply to him as well.”
In February, state Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, settled a similar lawsuit brought against her by Morgan. Under the settlement, she paid a $2,900 civil penalty (half of which was suspended) and $3,315 to Lee’s law firm for fees and costs.
“Hopefully, these cases will help these legislators better understand the importance of transparency in their future campaigns,” said Morgan. “They need to understand they are not above the law and these laws apply to them as well.”
Probst said that he’s aware of Morgan’s prolific complaint-filing and isn’t surprised that he became a target. He said that many campaigns, including his, are run by volunteers and that Morgan will base his complaints on clerical errors.
Morgan initially filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission in December against Probst. The complaint made numerous allegations, including failure to file campaign finance reports on time, disclose committee officers, keep adequate records and others.
Probst said that Morgan’s complaint with the commission made multiple incorrect statements. In January, Probst’s campaign treasurer filed a response with the commission and the Attorney General’s Office asking that the complaint be dismissed.
The response called Morgan’s complaints an “abuse of the process” and “a nuisance filing driven by partisan politics” that is costing “taxpayers thousands of dollars.”