On Monday, the state Public Disclosure Commission, as reported by the Seattle P-I, "determined that one of the state's most politically aggressive industry groups violated campaign finance law while amassing its multimillion dollar war chest... [T]he BIAW had illegally solicited, received and retained more than $584,000 from it's local associations without registering as a political action committee."
Brad Shannon of the Olympian added the "PDC found BIAW also spent $2.5 million on politics since 2006 using money it earns as a profit from a lucrative industrial-insurance rebate program it runs for about 6,000 companies." That money has been funneled into ChangePAC, which "has spent more than $1 million on hard-hitting ads in the governor's race, attacking incumbent Gov. Chris Gregoire and promoting Republican challenger Dino Rossi..."
The PDC forwarded the case to Attorney General Rob McKenna for prosecution. Bob Young of the Seattle Times writes that puts Republican McKenna "in a tough spot. McKenna must decide whether to seek fines against a group that has been deeply involved in conservative campaigns in recent years, from state Supreme Court races to this year's governor's contest... The BIAW backed McKenna's 2004 campaign for attorney general."
Don't expect this setback to result in fewer anti-Gregoire attack ads. I'll be surprised if McKenna doesn't quickly negotiate a financial settlement that might sting BIAW a little, but won't really slow them down. According to Young, BIAW Vice President Tom McCabe said the PDC's ruling will have "no impact on our activities in the [governor's] race."
McKenna has until Friday to decide what he's going to do with the PDC's findings. Regardless, a separate lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court on behalf of some disgruntled BIAW members will continue. Stay tuned. There will be more to this story over the next few weeks. -- Dennis
Note: The PDC report on the BIAW's violations can be found here. A report on similar violations by the Master Builders Assn. of King and Snohomish Counties can be found here.