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Originally published April 8, 2013 at 9:09 PM | Page modified April 8, 2013 at 10:32 PM

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Months after election, McKenna campaign fund kept spending

Rob McKenna’s 2012 campaign fund spent $61,615 in 2013 before shutting down last month, mostly for “consulting” work.

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

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Couldn't cut spending on his own campaign, even while advocating thrift by government. ... MORE
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OLYMPIA — The campaign account established to fund Rob McKenna’s 2012 gubernatorial bid kept spending weeks into 2013, according to documents recently filed with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).

The Friends of Rob McKenna fund spent $61,615 this year before dissolving March 8 — about $43,000 of which, according to the documents, went to “consulting” by former McKenna campaign manager Randy Pepple and his wife, who works with him.

The rest went to other consultants, “online services,” and hotel and food expenses during the state GOP’s annual January conference in Ocean Shores.

No other recent unsuccessful candidate has spent so much so long after the election, according to PDC documents.

Pepple said Monday the 2013 payments were for work related to wrapping up the campaign, including archiving voter lists, thanking supporters and writing a final analysis.

“Rob asked me to close down the campaign, and that’s what I did,” said Pepple, noting his boss’ $13.8 million operation was the most expensive in state history.

Dino Rossi, who raised $11.6 million for his 2008 gubernatorial bid, spent just $1,442 in 2009, besides tax-related expenses. Rossi’s fund for his 2004 candidacy closed that same year.

That’s the norm; this year, attorney general candidate Reagan Dunn made his last payment Dec. 6 and secretary of state hopeful Kathleen Drew made hers Dec. 13.

PDC rules require a candidate’s fund be spent on campaign-related expenses. Anything left over must go toward a future run for the same office; refunds to contributors; or donations to a charitable organization, a political party or the state.

McKenna, a former Republican attorney general, is in an odd spot because he says he’s unlikely to run for office anytime soon, but wants to stay involved in politics anyway.

McKenna and Gov. Jay Inslee each spent tens of thousands of dollars between the election and the end of 2012 on end-of-campaign expenses. But Inslee closed his campaign account Dec. 31, transferring the remaining money to a 2016 re-election fund.

McKenna kept spending.

PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson on Monday called the 2013 payments “odd.” She called out the $674 spent during the Ocean Shores conference, in particular, as “not something that should’ve been paid for out of his 2012 account.”

Pepple explained those costs as related to a thank-you party McKenna threw for former campaign staffers attending the conference.

No complaint has been filed with the PDC.

In all, Friends of Rob McKenna spent more than $13.2 million in cash expenditures, according to the PDC. Pepple and his wife received more than $300,000 of that.

On March 8, the fund’s remaining $81,435 was transferred to an existing surplus funds account McKenna plans to use to form an advocacy group to push GOP causes.

Before the transfer, that account was used to make donations, including $50,000 to the state Republican Party in December and $2,500 to the Boy Scouts of America in February, according to PDC documents.

McKenna has faced campaign-finance complaints before, including questions over money he spent as attorney general out of his old “re-elect AG” account while gearing up to run for governor.

Brian M. Rosenthal: 360-236-8267 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal

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