A Washington state nonprofit group and its attorney have been fined more than $28,000 by the state Supreme Court for making legally meritless claims alleging widespread vote fraud.
The Washington Election Integrity Coalition United was ordered to pay nearly $9,600, and its Sequim-based attorney, Virginia Shogren, was ordered to pay nearly $18,800 for suing Gov. Jay Inslee in October.
Those fines were imposed last month and announced Wednesday by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, which defended Inslee in the case. Ferguson said his office also intends to file a bar complaint against Shogren.
The sanctions were the latest defeat for the “Stop the Steal” movement stoked by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Those claims have been rejected in dozens of lawsuits and audits across the country and in Washington.
Loren Culp, the Republicans’ 2020 gubernatorial candidate who lost by 545,000 votes, filed a lawsuit alleging widespread fraud, only to drop the case after a threat of legal sanctions against his attorney for making baseless claims in a court of law.
In the latest case, the election integrity coalition had petitioned the state Supreme Court in October, seeking a ruling that Inslee violated his constitutional duties by allegedly allowing or encouraging the state Department of Licensing to register noncitizens to vote. The court dismissed the case earlier this year — and took the unusual step of granting the state’s motion to impose sanctions over its frivolous nature.
In its motion for sanctions, Ferguson’s office wrote that the petition was “so devoid of legal merit that there was no reasonable possibility that it would have been successful.” The motion noted the petition had been based in large part on unsworn statements by a retired Department of Licensing employee who made “dubious” assumptions about citizenship status of people based on ethnicity.
Ferguson said in a statement Wednesday that attorneys and organizations “who attack our democracy and abuse our legal system must face accountability.” He said his office “will continue fighting to protect our elections from these baseless lawsuits that push ‘the Big Lie.’”
Inslee in a statement said people who “intentionally spread lies and undermine our elections must be held accountable.” The governor proposed controversial legislation this year that would have criminalized some lies about elections, but it died in the state Senate.
Neither Shogren nor the coalition responded to requests for comment Wednesday. In a post on its website, the coalition said the sanctions show courts are “intent on discouraging any case that will shine a bright light on one of the ways our electoral system is fatally flawed.”
The coalition is led by Tamborine Borrelli, who has filed to run as an “America First (R)” candidate for Secretary of State this year.
Her group also has filed several lawsuits against county elections officials, seeking audits of the 2020 election, with similar claims of a widespread conspiracy involving “electronic manipulation” and “statewide vote flipping.” Republican congressional candidates Joe Kent and Doug Basler have signed on as plaintiffs in those lawsuits.
Six of those lawsuits are still pending in U.S. District Court for Western Washington — and could result in additional sanctions against the coalition and Shogren.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s office has filed a motion asking a federal judge to order the plaintiffs to cover the county’s legal costs for filing a frivolous, “conspiracy-laden complaint” alleging that county Elections Director Julie Wise “engaged in a nefarious plot” to rig the 2020 general election.
Correction: Tamborine Borrelli is running as an “America First (R)” candidate for Secretary of State this year, not as a Republican candidate as reported in an earlier version of this story.