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March 27, 2023

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State AG files suit against Google and Facebook

Two not complying with campaign finance laws

By , Columbian politics reporter

Two digital advertising giants are reportedly not complying with Washington state campaign finance laws, but local candidates say they don’t expect it to impact their campaigns.

Earlier this week, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a campaign finance lawsuit against Google and Facebook after The Stranger, an alternative weekly in Seattle, first notified Ferguson’s office in April that it could not get political ad records from the two companies in December 2017.

“Washington’s political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone, whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation,” Ferguson said in a press release. “Washingtonians have a right to know who’s paying for the political advertising they see.”

Advertisers in Washington are required to keep a record of which candidate the advertisement supported or opposed, as well as the dates of the advertisement, total cost of the ad and who paid along with the name and address of the person sponsoring the ad.

In response to the lawsuit, Google announced it would no longer sell political advertisements for state or local elections or ballot measures starting June 7. Federal races, such as the race for the 3rd Congressional District, are exempt from this rule.

Facebook is still selling local political ads, but is still not fully complying with disclosure rules, according to The Stranger.

Local candidates say their campaigns will be relatively unaffected.

Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring, who is also running for Chair, said Google advertising was not part of their plan. They’re working on getting approval to start using Facebook advertising, she said, adding that she still needs to review the Public Disclosure Commission’s rules.

Democratic challenger Eric Holt concurred that Google advertising wasn’t part of their plan, but Facebook might be a future possibility.

“If we do (use Facebook), we will verify compliance before purchasing the ad,” Holt said.

Kathy Gillespie, Democratic candidate for the 18th District, also doesn’t expect Google’s lack of advertising to impact her campaign. And although she utilized Facebook’s advertising for her campaign kickoff, Gillespie said they are not currently using the platform to advertise.

Tanisha Harris, Democratic candidate for the 17th District, said her campaign currently uses Facebook for advertising as part of their digital media presence.

“I understand and acknowledge that Google feels this decision to pull political ads at this time is in their best interest,” Harris said. “Going forward our campaign has all intentions of working with those digital media companies in providing transparency and accuracy when it comes to political ads.”

Columbian politics reporter