A complaint filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission alleges a prominent Democratic lobbying firm skirted disclosure rules in its work for payday lender Moneytree. The firm says it followed the law.
OLYMPIA — A complaint has been filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) over a prominent Democratic lobbying firm’s contract with Seattle-based payday lender Moneytree.
The anonymous complaint alleges Sound View Strategies and its partners Tracy Newman and Kelly Evans failed to register as a lobbyists until March despite signing a lobbying contract before the 2015 legislative session.
The complaint cites a March 3 Seattle Times story detailing Moneytree’s push to rewrite Washington’s strict payday lending law passed in 2009, which has cut the short-term lending industry’s business in the state by three quarters.
A leaked copy of Sound View’s lobbying contract showed the Democratic firm had been working behind the scenes since January on the bill. An amended version of the proposal, Senate Bill 5899, passed the state Senate but is stalled in the House.
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The industry-backed bill, opposed by consumer and anti-poverty activists, would replace short-term payday loans with “installment loans” paid back over six months or a year.
The PDC complaint also questions the legality of a provision in Sound View’s $8,000-a-month contract that would have paid the firm a “wrap up” fee of $15,000 if the payday-lending legislation had passed the Legislature by March 5.
State law prohibits win bonuses for lobbyists, who are barred from signing contracts tying pay to “his or her success in influencing legislation.”
Sandeep Kaushik, a partner at Sound View, said the firm has followed the law. He dismissed the complaint as a “nuisance” that “lacks merit.” State law does allow some minimal lobbying activities before filing as a lobbyist.
Kaushik added that the $15,000 “wrap up” fee was not a win bonus since it merely ensured the firm would get paid the same total compensation it would receive for lobbying for the entire session.
Sound View has two weeks to respond to the complaint, and PDC staff will decide after that whether a full investigation is warranted, said commission spokeswoman Lori Anderson.