Jenny Durkan’s campaign called the complaint “a smoke screen” in the Seattle mayoral race and denied any wrongdoing.
Mayoral candidate Cary Moon’s campaign filed a complaint Wednesday accusing rival Jenny Durkan’s campaign of violating election law by not properly disclosing the work of a spokeswoman.
Stephanie Formas, formerly a communications director in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, has been serving as Durkan’s campaign spokeswoman and media contact for months.
But Durkan’s campaign has neither reported paying Formas nor reported her work as an in-kind contribution, the Moon campaign’s complaint with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission says. The complaint says the value of Formas’ work has far exceeded the city’s $500 contribution limit.
Denying any wrongdoing Wednesday, Durkan’s campaign said Formas was initially a volunteer and is being paid by the political-strategy company running the campaign.
Durkan’s campaign called the complaint “a smokescreen” to distract from the massive debt that Moon’s campaign has incurred.
Seattle’s election code allows campaigns to use volunteers for stuffing envelopes, doorbelling, making telephone calls, waving signs and running errands, which need not be reported as campaign contributions.
But unpaid personal and professional services, such as public relations or political consultants, must be reported as in-kind contributions.
On her LinkedIn profile, Formas describes herself as a communications professional with public-relations firm WE Communications. She’s identified herself during the campaign as a volunteer.
“Throughout the campaign, the Durkan campaign has benefited from Formas’ time and skills in a professional capacity that goes far beyond occasional volunteer time,” the Moon campaign’s complaint says.
“Formas has appeared as the campaign spokesperson many times at official functions, issuing campaign news releases and press statements and speaking on the record to the press on the behalf of the campaign.”
The complaint notes Formas was paid as a communications director for Clinton’s campaign.
“There is no violation here,” the Durkan campaign said in a statement. “Stephanie has volunteered to help elect Jenny by making phone calls, entering in data, staffing events, knocking on hundreds of doors and marching with Jenny at Pride.”
The statement added, “Her involvement in the campaign has grown in recent months to include some communications work independent of her full-time employment, and she is being compensated separately for those professional services through Sound View Strategies. The campaign’s payments to Sound View are duly reported in our campaign filings.”
The complaint is the latest in a series filed by the warring mayoral campaigns before Tuesday’s election.
Last month, the Moon campaign accused Durkan’s campaign of illegally accepting donations from city contractors and companies that employ city lobbyists.
The commission dismissed the complaint, saying there had been only one clear-cut violation — a $500 donation from Microsoft.
Last week, the Durkan campaign accused Moon’s campaign of flouting contribution limits by amassing an unusual amount of debt in the final weeks before the election.
Candidates can pay off campaign debt with their own money after an election but cannot spend more than $5,000 of their own money in the lead-up. About half of the money that Moon’s campaign has raised has come from Moon herself.
“This complaint is a smoke-screen complaint to hide the fact that the Moon campaign filed a new disclosure form late last night that shows that they are now carrying $190,000 of debt, including nearly $160,000 of debt to Moxie Media, their campaign consultant,” the Durkan campaign said.
Moxie Media is illegally lending money to the Moon campaign that Moon will be able to pay back after the election, according to the Durkan campaign.