Nathan Choi never filed campaign contribution or spending reports, the Attorney General’s complaint says.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit Friday alleging campaign-finance violations by a Bellevue attorney who ran an unsuccessful campaign last year for the state Court of Appeals.
In the Thurston County Superior Court complaint, the state alleges Nathan Choi, along with his campaign committee, never filed required records of campaign contributions and spending, and also failed to submit committee-registration paperwork on time.
Choi had challenged Michael Spearman, a Court of Appeals judge since 2010, in this past November’s election.
About a week before that election, the quiet judicial race turned controversial when Choi took out a full-page ad in The Seattle Times that mentioned his full name 23 times, and included a headline asking “Vote for Judge Nathan Choi.”
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The King County Bar Association held a special meeting a few days later and decided to admonish Choi, saying the ad could mislead voters into believing he was already a judge.
Choi ultimately garnered just 25 percent of the vote, and Spearman kept his seat as the court’s presiding chief judge. The Court of Appeals decides appeals of Superior Court cases and is the last step before cases go to the state Supreme Court.
According to the Attorney General’s complaint, Choi’s campaign never disclosed spending for The Seattle Times advertisement; nor did he disclose campaign spending for his filing fee, a bulk mailing program, his own campaign website, a website criticizing his opponent, or political advertising placed on wooden sandwich boards in at least 16 locations around downtown Seattle.
The sandwich boards also racked up fines because they were not allowed under local ordinances, according to the lawsuit, “creating additional reportable debts or expenses for the Defendants’ campaign.”
The state believes that Choi’s campaign spent more than $10,000 on his candidacy, according to the suit, though the “full extent” of “undisclosed contribution and expenditure activity is unknown.”
Choi was also late to file required campaign paperwork, according to the lawsuit.
State election law requires candidates to register and provide information about their personal finances within 14 days of becoming a candidate. The state’s complaint alleges Choi did not submit that paperwork for 157 days.
Morgan also pursued a citizen-action complaint over Choi’s alleged violations, which might have prompted the Attorney General’s office to get involved with this suit. A citizen-action complaint allows a private citizen to sue on behalf of the state, if the state is notified and chooses not to pursue an alleged violation.
Choi did not immediately respond to messages left Sunday to several telephone numbers listed with his name.