After a lawsuit filed by the Washington Attorney General’s Office, two men could face more than $450,000 in campaign-disclosure penalties over a political attack targeting a Grant County prosecutor candidate.
OLYMPIA — A campaign smear from a fictitious political organization, allegedly funded by a former judge: Welcome to “House of Cards,” Grant County edition.
Two men face up to $454,000 in civil penalties and fees over the role campaign-disclosure watchdogs say they played in a 2014 political mailer attacking a county- prosecutor candidate.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office on Monday filed a lawsuit alleging that former Grant County Superior Court judge Jerry Moberg and Ken Greene, owner of a Moses Lake shoe-repair business, unlawfully concealed their sponsorship of a political mailer that ripped into Garth Dano.
Dano was a Republican challenging the incumbent GOP Grant County prosecutor, Angus Lee.
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The mailer, produced by a South Dakota firm, supposedly came from a group called Grant County Concerned Voters and hit mailboxes in October 2014.
Making claims about Dano’s family life, it described the challenger as a man who “seriously neglected his responsibilities as a husband and father.” It also listed a series of purported traffic violations racked up by Dano, according to a complaint filed that month with the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).
“Vote for a proven leader,” the mailer concluded. “Vote Angus Lee.”
Voters that November chose Dano.
Grant County Concerned Voters never registered as a committee or made campaign-disclosure reports with the state, according to the lawsuit, filed in Thurston County Superior Court.
The PDC referred the case to the AG’s office in March, saying the penalties available to the commission weren’t enough, considering the allegations.
According to the lawsuit, Moberg and Greene concealed their work on the mailer, didn’t register as a political committee, and used an assumed name for an electioneering communication.
Moberg and Francis Floyd, an attorney who represented the two men during a PDC investigation into the case, did not return requests Monday seeking comment.
While Greene and Moberg both testified to the PDC that Greene was the mailer’s sole funding source, the PDC later obtained bank records showing that Moberg gave Greene $4,000.
Shortly after Green got the money, he wrote a $3,872 check to the South Dakota firm that produced the mailer, according to the PDC investigation.
An attorney for the two men later told the PDC that Moberg had, in fact, loaned Greene the money to pay for the mailer. Moberg and Greene didn’t provide the PDC documentation that specified the terms of the loan, the PDC said.
But, according to the PDC investigation, “Mr. Moberg states Mr. Greene has been repaying the loan by providing shoe repair and business-driving services.”