The state’s campaign finance watchdog wants the Attorney General’s Office to review allegations over the Freedom Foundation’s role in last year’s Olympia income-tax ballot measure.

Share story

OLYMPIA — The Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has referred a campaign-disclosure complaint against the right-leaning Freedom Foundation to the Attorney General’s Office.

The complaint stems from Freedom Foundation’s opposition last year to a proposed income tax that appeared on the city of Olympia’s election ballot.

That proposal, known as Initiative 1, failed in the November election.

Filed in January by a member of the Northwest Accountability Project, the complaint alleged that the nonprofit Freedom Foundation was in fact a political committee for weighing in on the ballot measure, and should have disclosed its spending.

A PDC investigation found there wasn’t evidence to show the Freedom Foundation fit the definition of a political committee.

The investigation, however, did conclude that the organization devoted resources to stop Initiative 1 that should have been reported.

The complaint cited examples of Freedom Foundation blog posts from last summer opposing the initiative, as well as podcasts and a newsletter from the organization.

PDC members this week referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office for possible legal action.

In a statement, Peter Starzynski, executive director of the Northwest Accountability Project, which bills itself as a nonprofit that watchdogs right-leaning organizations, lauded the decision.

Mark Lamb, an attorney representing the Freedom Foundation, said Thursday’s PDC vote wasn’t a surprise.

Lamb said the legal theory behind the case led to the Attorney General’s Office losing two other campaign-finance cases recently — including one against the Freedom Foundation.

If the lawsuit against the Freedom Foundation moves forward, “we look forward to them losing,” Lamb said.

This week’s PDC action is the latest tangle in a long-running battle between the Freedom Foundation and left-leaning groups, such as labor unions, and the Northwest Accountability Project.