Top Republican leaders are demanding the resignation of Evelyn Fielding Lopez, the head of the state Public Disclosure Commission, accusing her of anti-GOP bias.
Top Washington Republican leaders are demanding the resignation of the head of the state’s campaign-watchdog agency, accusing her of bias in favor of Democrats.
In a letter, the GOP leaders said Evelyn Fielding Lopez, the executive director of the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), has improperly intervened on behalf of a Democratic candidate in a hotly contested state Senate race in Southwest Washington.
“It is highly disappointing to see you use your taxpayer-funded position to illegally advance partisan political interests,” says the letter signed Wednesday by state GOP chairman Susan Hutchison, House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen and Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler.
The GOP leaders said complaints against Lopez will be filed with the state executive ethics board and the Washington State Bar Association. “We strongly urge you to resign your position” to restore trust in the PDC, they wrote.
Lopez rejected the demands, saying in an interview Thursday her actions — which included disputing the accuracy of a Republican political ad — were intended to provide accurate information about PDC actions.
“I don’t see any reason to resign. In fact I would be hesitant to do so. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a political party to exert control over the PDC or the executive director,” Lopez said. “This has a chilling effect.”
At issue is a letter Lopez sent Oct. 5 to the campaign of Democratic candidate Tim Probst, who is running for the state Senate in the Vancouver-area 17th Legislative District against Republican Lynda Wilson. The race is among a handful that could decide control of the state Senate.
In her letter, responding to a request by Probst, Lopez wrote that she’d reviewed Republican political ads against him and found “they are not correct.” The ads inaccurately describe PDC actions in response to complaints about Probst’s fundraising, she said.
That enraged the GOP leaders, who said in their letter to Lopez “reviewing the truth or falsity of political advertising is not a normal and regular part of your office.” Probst has now been citing Lopez’s letter in his own campaign mailers.
Lopez, an attorney and former assistant attorney general, was appointedPDC executive director in 2015. The PDC regulates lobbying, campaign-finance reporting and other election laws in Washington state. Lopez and other agency staff are overseen by a citizen commission appointed by the governor.
Anne Levinson, the chair of the PDC, said the commission welcomes feedback and can see why GOP leaders might believe Lopez’s wording in the Probst letter went too far.
But Levinson, a Democrat, said the commission won’t bow to demands that Lopez be fired or resign. “We recognize there will be slings and arrows during the campaign season and there will be people who will be pleased with our decisions and people who won’t be,” she said.
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The letter from Hutchison and the GOP legislative leaders also complained that Lopez has contributed to Democrats in the past, accusing her of a partisan bias and calling her a “pawn” of the Democratic Party.
Kevin Carns, political director for state House Republicans, said in a Facebook post that GOP leaders want an outside agency to handle investigations in legislative races until Lopez resigns or is fired. “We refuse to be regulated by an obvious partisan with an agenda,” he wrote.
In the interview Lopez acknowledged “I am a Democrat” but said she takes her role as PDC director seriously and would clarify inaccurate political ads about PDC actions if they were directed at Republican candidates, too.
Her goal, she said, is to not have PDC complaints used in attack ads to mislead voters about political candidates.
“We’re not here to be a pawn in the political game,” she said. “We’re here to provide good information to the media and the public.”