PDC to investigate allegation from prosecutor primary

The state election watchdog is going to investigate allegations of improper campaign spending during the summer’s contentious county prosecutor primary.

The spending in question was for $6,300 worth of advertisements which ran in the Kitsap Sun during the primary election. The money came from the union representing deputy prosecutors, which was supporting Prosecutor Russ Hauge’s unsuccessful reelection bid. A state Public Disclosure Commission spokeswoman said Wednesday the investigative process can take about three months. If violations are found to have occurred, the commission has the authority to fine those responsible – be it individuals or the Deputy Prosecutors Guild itself – up to $10,000.

Here is an account of the complaint from July.

Hauge made it through the primary as the top voter-getter – with Republican Tina Robinson taking second – but then lost in the Nov. 4 general election to Robinson by 1 percent of the vote. She will take over the office at the beginning of the year.

Robinson and the two other primary candidates, Democrat Bob Scales and independent Bruce Danielson, signed the complaint.

Hauge and former Guild President Chad Enright told the Sun at the time of the complaint that there was no cooperation between Hauge and the Guild.

However, the complaint alleges in part that because the ads allegedly used material copy and pasted from Hauge’s campaign site and linked back to the campaign site, they amount to some level of coordination, which would then make the $6,300 spent count as a direct campaign contributions. If that were the case, it would be counted under state contribution limits and would exceed them.

Scales said Wednesday he was frustrated that the process took so long, and may take longer still. He said the spending, which he believes was improper, did help Hauge and diluted his own advertising campaign. He also said that a complaint from Hauge’s campaign about Scales’ signs prompted an immediate response from the PDC, but the complaint he is a party to has taken months.

“Everything is after the fact,” Scales said. “It takes so long to do anything, what is the point?”

Scales believes the investigation will find improper coordination and despite the time that has passed, a fine would serve as a deterrent to other campaigns.

Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the PDC, said when complaints are received they undergo a “triage” process, where they are evaluated to determine if some immediate action can be taken to settle the dispute. The complaint was handled the same as others, she said, and added the commission does not have additional employees to handle complaints during campaign season.

She said in this case, even if the material in the ad was replaced with other images, and the links were changed or removed, the underlying allegation of improper campaign spending would not have been resolved.

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