Cary Moon's mayoral campaign rejected the allegations that it had taken on more debt than allowed, saying it has followed the law.
Seattle mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan’s campaign has filed an ethics complaint against rival Cary Moon, accusing her of flouting campaign-contribution limits by amassing large debts in the final weeks of the Nov. 7 election.
The three-page complaint, filed Wednesday with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), contends Moon and her political consultants “are currently engaged in a complete end run” around a law prohibiting candidates from accepting contributions of more than $5,000 in the final 21 days before an election.
Moon’s campaign has reported raising $323,000, with about $176,500 of that coming from Moon herself. The campaign has spent $258,000 and reports debts of more than $125,000, putting it about $60,000 in the red, according to a state Public Disclosure Commission summary.
By comparison Durkan’s campaign has raised more than $865,000 and spent about $674,000, with debts of nearly $58,000, according to the PDC. Durkan also is supported by a business and labor-backed independent expenditure group that has raised nearly $850,000.
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Political campaigns frequently rack up debts, often ending election cycles in hock to consultants and other vendors, requiring candidates to pay off the debts personally or host post-election fundraisers. Seattle election rules allow consultants to extend credit to campaigns for as long as 90 days.
Just before the November 2013 election, Ed Murray reported debts of about $98,700 and was $70,300 in the red, while Mike McGinn reported debts of about $23,200 and was about $21,500 underwater.
But Durkan’s complaint, submitted by political consultant Sandeep Kaushik, contends Moon and her consultants at the Seattle firm Moxie Media have illegally spent beyond the campaign’s means and outside of standard industry practice.
The complaint cites a glossy mailer that went out this month with postage costs that seemed to exceed the campaign’s available cash. If Moxie fronted those postage costs, that amounted to an “illegal loan” to the campaign, the complaint argued.
The complaint also noted Moxie has previously been hit with one of the largest campaign-finance penalties in state history, referring to a $290,000 settlement stemming from a 2010 scheme to defeat a Democratic state senator.
Moon’s campaign rejected the charges, saying it has obeyed the law.
In an emailed statement, the campaign’s treasurer, Jason Bennett, said Moxie had paid the postal service for the postage and immediately billed the campaign, “as is their typical courtesy for major accounts.”
“This is fully documented in SEEC and PDC filings in compliance will all state and city rules,” he added.
Wayne Barnett, executive director of the SEEC, confirmed he received the complaint but said he could not comment further.
The ethics panel earlier this month dismissed a complaint against Durkan’s campaign, which alleged she illegally accepted five donations from city contractors and businesses lobbying the city.
Seattle Times staff reporter Daniel Beekman contributed to this story.