Grant County pair to pay $250,000 in campaign finance case

March 9, 2020 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — A businessman and a lawyer in Grant County have agreed to pay $250,000 in fines and legal expenses after a judge found that they committed campaign finance violations, but the defendants insist the case is a serious overreach by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge John Skinder ruled in January that Moses Lake businessman Ken Greene and attorney Jerry Moberg unlawfully concealed that they were responsible for spending $3,900 on political fliers mailed to voters during the 2014 campaign for Grant County prosecutor.

Moberg, who decades ago served as a Grant County Superior Court judge, was assessed the bulk of the settlement: $230,000. That includes $115,000 in fines and $115,000 for legal costs incurred by the state. Moberg’s attorney called the amount “grossly excessive” but said her client wanted to put the case behind him because his co-defendant is dying from lung cancer.

“Intentionally violating Washington’s campaign finance laws and lying to investigators about your conduct will result in a significant penalty,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office handled the case, said Monday in a news release announcing the settlement.

The court found that Greene and Moberg were responsible for sending mailers to thousands of voters three weeks before the election, and that Moberg reviewed the mailer and helped Greene choose an out-of-state printer. 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.

The state Public Disclosure Commission referred the case to the attorney general.

“This case exemplifies why the Public Disclosure Commission and campaign finance disclosure exists: To hold to account those who try to influence elections,” commission chairman David Ammons said in the news release. “Voters deserve true transparency.”

Moberg’s attorney, Lori W. Hurl, said her client had simply loaned $4,000 to his friend of 35 years. Even the PDC’s investigator had acknowledged that Moberg’s statement when questioned about whether he paid for the mailer was “technically accurate,” she said.

Further, she said, Greene has lung cancer and is only expected to live a few months, creating an incentive for the defendants to put the matter behind them.

“Spending his days in trial instead of receiving much needed cancer treatment was not an option,” Hurl said in a written statement.