AP NEWS

Court: Lawyer, businessman broke campaign finance law

January 8, 2020 GMT

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A Grant County lawyer and a Moses Lake business owner violated campaign finance law by concealing that they were responsible for political fliers mailed to voters during the 2014 campaign for Grant County prosecutor, a judge has ruled.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge John Skinder issued his order Jan. 3. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office filed the lawsuit more than two years ago, announced the ruling in a news release Tuesday.

The court found that Moses Lake businessman Ken Greene and attorney Jerry Moberg, who decades ago served as a Grant County Superior Court judge, were responsible for sending mailers to thousands of voters three weeks before the election. The mailers attacked candidate Garth Dano, who won the race.

Greene had the fliers printed with the name of a fictitious political committee, and Moberg put up the $4,000 Greene used to pay for the mailers. The spending was not reported to the Public Disclosure Commission, and when investigators questioned them they “effected concealment” of the source of the money, the judge said.

“If you violate campaign finance laws and lie to the state about your conduct, you can expect to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Ferguson said in a news release. “Dark money has no place in Washington elections.”

Lori Hurl, an attorney for Moberg, said her client was considering an appeal.

“While we respect the court’s decision, we are disappointed by the ruling,” she wrote in an email. “We dispute the State’s position that Mr. Moberg was untruthful during the investigation, as the State’s investigator, Phil Stutzman, admitted during his deposition that Mr. Moberg’s answer to his question about whether Mr. Moberg helped fund the mailer was perhaps technically accurate.”

A trial set for Feb. 24 will determine the penalties for their violations. The attorney general said it will argue that Greene and Moberg’s actions were intentional — and that penalties should thus be tripled. If the court agrees, Green and Moberg could face penalties up to a total of $319,326.30, plus costs and fees, Ferguson said.