Chamber PAC may be fined for not disclosing Vulcan donation
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission will vote Wednesday on a recommendation to fine a Seattle Chamber of Commerce PAC for violating campaign disclosure laws by failing to disclose a $15,000 contribution from Vulcan.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A political-action committee (PAC) supporting Ed Murray for mayor has agreed it violated campaign-disclosure laws when it failed to report a $15,000 contribution from Vulcan, according to a proposed settlement agreement after a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) investigation.
The commission will vote Wednesday on a recommendation to fine Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), the political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, $1,500 with half of it suspended if there are no further violations through the 2015 election cycle.
Wayne Barnett, executive director of the commission, said Vulcan should have been listed among contributors to People for Ed Murray, an independent-expenditure committee, and also as one of the committee’s top five contributors. Vulcan, Paul Allen’s real-estate development company, had made a contribution to CASE, which then gave money to People for Ed Murray.
“When CASE made the contribution, they were obligated to disclose that Vulcan’s contribution had been earmarked for Ed Murray,” Barnett said.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s re-election campaign filed an ethics complaint in September alleging that two business-funded PACs supporting Murray colluded to conceal information from Seattle voters, including other business donations to the Chamber PAC.
The Ethics Commission investigation found only that the Vulcan contribution should have been disclosed because it came with specific instructions for how it could be used. The Murray campaign was not implicated in the findings.
“There is no evidence that the People for Ed Murray or Ed Murray for Mayor had knowledge of the communications between Vulcan and CASE, or sought in any way to conceal the source of any contribution made to the People for Ed Murray or Ed Murray for Mayor,” the investigation report concludes.
Chamber spokeswoman Terri Hiroshima said the group would have no comment until after the commission’s special meeting Wednesday.
People for Ed Murray spokesman Dean Nielson thanked the commission for its investigation and said, “At no time was the committee aware of any activities of its donors that violated the law, and we are happy that the SEEC absolved People for Ed Murray of any wrongdoing.”
The investigation said that in July, Phil Fujii of Vulcan discussed a contribution to CASE with chamber Vice President and CASE Executive Director George Allen. Unlike other business donors to CASE, Vulcan specified that its money be spent on behalf of Murray in the primary. Because CASE did not disclose Vulcan’s money was intended for Murray, the commission found CASE had violated disclosure rules.
Fujii served briefly as McGinn’s deputy mayor in 2010 and helped with McGinn’s 2009 transition team. He worked for city government, including in the Department of Neighborhoods, for more than 20 years before joining Vulcan in 2002.
Fujii hosted a fundraiser for McGinn in May along with Jon Scholes, vice president of the Downtown Seattle Association.
Both Murray and McGinn have gotten support from independent-expenditure groups that can raise unlimited money and are not subject to the $700-per-donor limit that applies to candidate-campaign committees. Two activist unions, Unite Here Local 8 (hospitality workers) and United Food and Commercial Workers Union International Local 21 (grocery workers) have backed McGinn with more than $100,000, while People for Ed Murray has raised more than $150,000 for the primary.
Another independent-expenditure committee, People for a New Seattle Mayor, has raised more than $100,000 for Murray for the general-election campaign, with the biggest donation, $45,000, coming from the Seattle Firefighters Union and $15,000 from the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild.
Information from Seattle Times archives was included in this story. Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes