The settlement with the state Attorney General's Office is the latest in an ongoing battle between labor unions and the right-leaning Freedom Foundation, which filed the campaign-finance complaint.
OLYMPIA — The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Washington State Council 14 has agreed to pay a six-figure settlement over a campaign-finance lawsuit.
Announced Tuesday afternoon by the state Attorney General’s Office, the settlement requires SEIU to pay $128,262.75 in civil fines, as well as $18,300.85 in costs and fees, according to a copy of the settlement.
Another $104,942.25 in civil fines is suspended, provided the organization has no violations over the next four years.
While the SEIU state council “has its own registered political committee, the council itself also acted as a political committee by devoting a majority of its annual expenditures to electoral political activity during 2014 and 2016,” according to a news release by the Attorney General’s Office.
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Tuesday’s settlement is the latest exchange of blows between labor unions — big Democratic campaign donors in Washington — and the right-leaning Freedom Foundation, which filed the complaint.
In 2017, the Freedom Foundation alleged that the SEIU state council had been operating as a political committee without filing as such with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Its complaint included donations that made their way to campaigns in support of Initiative 1433, which voters approved to raise Washington’s minimum wage, and Olympia’s Proposition 1 to establish a citywide income tax, which voters rejected.
The Attorney General’s Office ultimately determined that SEIU had made significant campaign contributions, but failed to register and report as a political committee in for at least the years 2014 and 2016.
In a news release Tuesday, Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe accused the Attorney General’s Office of letting SEIU “off for pennies on the dollar.”
Dmitri Iglitzin, counsel for SEIU, said that those contributions had already been reported through other political committees or organizations.
“But the complaint was that we should have reported them in a different way, at different forms, at different times,” Iglitzin said.
Once the complaint was filed, SEIU immediately reached out to the Attorney General’s Office to try to resolve the issue, he added.
The settlement comes as Democrats have solidified their control of the state Legislature and have sought to push through union-friendly legislation.
But labor groups are also facing last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found public employees can’t be forced to pay union fees.