Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

WA-03: Campaign finance law to consider

CORRECTION, December 15th: State rules, crafted to interpret the law, actually allow legislators who are running for federal office to raise campaign funds immediately before, during, and after, legislative session, contrary to what this post (which can be found below) originally asserted.

So any state legislator running to replace Brian Baird is free to file with the FEC and start raising money as soon as they can get their act together.

Thanks to a well-informed reader who saw the post for letting me know the fundraising freeze isn't applicable for federal campaigns. For other readers' reference, here's an excerpt from WAC 390-17-400, which states:
7) State officials may do the following. During a legislative session freeze period, the activities in which state officials may engage include, but are not limited to:

(a) Soliciting or accepting contributions to assist his or her own campaign for federal office
Emphasis is mine.

At the Northwest Progressive Institute, we always do our best to make sure we're presenting factual information. Thanks to the reader who wrote in for the correction. We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused.

The original post was as follows:

With the retirement of Congressman Brian Baird, and the names of several state legislators on both sides of the aisle being mentioned as possible successors, it's important to remember that state law will temporarily setback the fundraising operations of any potential congressional campaign. RCW 42.17.710 states:
1) During the period beginning on the thirtieth day before the date a regular legislative session convenes and continuing through the date of final adjournment, and during the period beginning on the date a special legislative session convenes and continuing through the date that session adjourns, no state official or a person employed by or acting on behalf of a state official or state legislator may solicit or accept contributions to a public office fund, to a candidate or authorized committee, or to retire a campaign debt. Contributions received through the mail after the thirtieth day before a regular legislative session may be accepted if the contribution is postmarked prior to the thirtieth day before the session.

(2) This section does not apply to activities authorized in RCW 43.07.370.
What this means is that state legislators who decide to run for Congress right now are prohibited from raising funds starting on December 12th (the 2010 legislative session begins on January 11th).

This prohibition is not problematic if both Republicans and Democrats have state legislators running for the seat. Then, it becomes like the Cold War arms race between the Soviets and the U.S., a tit-for-tat sort of affair.

If Republicans Jon Russell and David Castillo stay in the race, they'd be free to fundraise while the state legislators were forbidden to do so, as would any Democrat who wasn't a state legislator.

The only way a legislator would be able to fundraise during the legislative session would be to resign his/her seat. The "freeze", as it's commonly called, does not make it impossible for a legislator to win a campaign, but it sets them at a disadvantage with other candidates who are not subject to its limitations.

With Rep. Jaime Herrera appearing at this point to be the Republican establishment candidate in the race, it's doubtful Castillo and Russell would raise enough money even during the legislative session to matter.

For the Democrats in the statehouse who are considering a run, a county commissioner, mayor or city councilmember entering the contest could pose problems because of the comparatively early start they'd get in raising money.

So of the Democratic candidates under consideration, it would appear that since Brendan Williams has already decided to leave the Legislature, he would have the least to lose by resigning early from the state House of Representatives to kick off his congressional campaign fundraising operation.


Blogger Chad Lupkes said...

WA-03 includes the counties of Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, and Clark, and the majority of Thurston and Skamania counties. If the candidates themselves can't raise money, there is nothing preventing them, Rep. Baird or anyone at the grassroots from doing fundraising for those local parties so that when it is time to get the actual GOTV work done, the resources are available.

Of course, history shows us that candidates campaigns don't give a rip about the party organizations except when it comes to how they help with GOTV, so I don't expect this to happen. But it would kind of be nice someday.

December 11, 2009 6:46 AM  
Blogger Cliff said...

I was under the impression that the law was preempted by federal law when it comes to federal office. In other words, it could stop Herrera from raising money to run for State Senate or Governor, but not for raising money to run for Congress or Senator.

December 14, 2009 6:38 AM  

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