Not fish but about tribal influence ( $$$$$$$ ) and our elected yahoos.
cc: Interested Parties & media contacts
Governor Jay Inslee
Attorney General Robert Ferguson
Members of the WA Legislature
AUTO files complaint alleging Attorney General Furgeson's receipt of campaign contributions from tribal governments violates the prohibition against candidates accepting contributions of public funds
On February 1, 2016, AUTO filed a petition requesting adoption of a rule by the Public Disclosure Commission that oversees elections and campaign contributions in state and local elections in Washington State (see details below). The PDC rejected our request and as a result, AUTO's attorney former state supreme court justice Phil Talmadge of the Seattle firm of Talmadge, Fitzpatrick & Tribe has filed a complaint on behalf of the organization with the Attorney General and the Prosecutor in King County. The complaint cites Ferguson's own receipt of contributions from tribal governments when seeking election as the top enforcer of state law as violations of state law and requests a legal complaint be initiated against Ferguson's political action committee "Friends of Bob Furgeson by one prosecutor's office or the other. If neither file a legal action within 45 days, AUTO intends to exercise its rights under the state law to assume the role of the two prosecutors and file a "citizens complaint" on behalf of the state. The complaint is attached.
The issue is the historical use by tribal governments of "public funds" in making political contributions to influence non-tribal elections in Washington state and subsequently, the decisions coming out of the legislative process or the executive branch. State law prohibits candidates from taking contributions from governments with "Public funds, whether derived through taxes, fees, penalties, or any other sources, shall not be used to finance political campaigns for state or school district office."
Earlier, AUTO pointed out to the PDC our belief that these contributions were resulting in hundreds of millions of state taxpayer's dollars flowing out of the state treasury into tribal government accounts. Shared gambling proceeds found in other states with tribal government gambling monopolies were surrendered behind closed doors rather than providing revenue for public schools as intended when Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The elected officials making these decisions were on the receiving end of millions of dollars in contributions from the same tribal governments granted these extraordinary privileges.
Additionally, AUTO believes an atmosphere of special treatment for tribes at the expense of the other citizens of the state has evolved. Non-tribal citizens are regularly heard complaining about the loss of fishing or hunting opportunities, land use or water rights, and encroachment on to their private property as a result of decisions by state departments including the Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation, and Department of Fish & Wildlife wherein staff seem compelled to provide prejudicial treatment for tribal interests.
The first reaction of the PDC staff was to prove our point that the contributions by the tribal governments have created an unlevel playing field in state offices for the state's non-tribal citizens. Nearly immediately upon receipt of our petition, the Executive Director and Assistant Attorney General for the PDC consulted with Bill Craig, head of the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs http://www.goia.wa.gov/
. Craig moved quickly to help arrange a meeting between PDC staff and tribal legal representatives. By the time AUTO was invited to a short meeting with PDC staff, it was easy to predict what was going to happen. The end result was the staff convincing the PDC Commissioners to avoid taking any action by refusing our request. The PDC, citing staffing and budgetary constraints, suggested we go to the legislature with the issue.
AUTO was disappointed, but not surprised by the decision of the PDC which resembled a "cut and run" maneuver. As for appealing to the Governor or turning to the legislature, one could hardly envision those arenas would prove a fair hearing on the issue. The Governor's own political action committee and other Democratic PACS have recently received $403,410 from tribal governments (view here). The majority of the members of the legislature from both sides of the aisle have likewise received contributions of public funds from tribal governments and the election fund raising cycle is just beginning.
The option left AUTO is filing a complaint with the Attorney General for violation of the campaign finance laws of the state of WA (RCW 42.17A). Since the Attorney General has likewise received large direct and indirect contributions from the tribal governments (view here), choosing to file against Mr. Ferguson himself allows the opportunity for the public to understand the depth of the conflict of interest that is so readily recognized by non-tribal citizens trying to compete with a tribal government for the attention of elected officials and departmental staff in Olympia.
Washington's "Campaign Disclosure and Contribution" statute was passed by initiative vote of the people in 1972. The drafter's seemingly recognized that elected officials could be less than enthusiastic about enforcement if protecting the citizens meant loss of personal financial support and inserted a provision to prevent the powers at be from denying the citizens rights. In the event both Attorney General Ferguson and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg fail to file an action within 45 days against Ferguson's political action committee "Friends of Bob Ferguson", the law states: "(4) A person who has notified the attorney general and the prosecuting attorney in the county in which the violation occurred in writing that there is reason to believe that some provision of this chapter is being or has been violated may himself or herself bring in the name of the state any of the actions (hereinafter referred to as a citizen's action) authorized under this chapter." AUTO's complaint includes the required notice of AUTO's intent to exercise this right and move forward if one or the other doesn't file on behalf of the state's citizens .
Additional details on the law and presentation documents used with the PDC process are available at AUTO's website including documentation showing the funds held by tribal governments are taxes and incomes that fall under the definition of public funds. Statements from representatives of tribes asserting gambling proceeds (like the state's lotto), motel/hotel, sales taxes, etc. paid by non-tribal citizens at tribal casinos, gas stations, and other enterprises are taxes paid by the public to a government are also provided.