The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce's political arm concealed the source of $15,000 used to promote Ed Murray's run for mayor, according to a settlement agreement announced this afternoon by Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission director Wayne Barnett. The settlement says the PAC, formally called Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), coordinated with Paul Allen's Vulcan to earmark money for an independent pro-Murray campaign without naming Vulcan on the advertising materials.
CASE gave a total of $52,500 to the pro-Murray group, which isn't charged with wrongdoing (nor is Vulcan). The manner in which the downtown business lobby—which is backing the more conservative candidate in each of the local races it has endorsed in—skirted campaign disclosure rules is detailed in this settlement agreement.
The settlement finds, in a wonky section titled conclusions of law," that CASE broke two city ethics laws: "When CASE accepted a check from Vulcan that came with the instructions that it be used for an independent expenditure in the mayoral primary, and used Vulcan's $15,000 check toward fulfilling its pledge toward [People for Ed Murray (PEM)] and in accordance with Vulcan's instructions, CASE violated SMC 2.04.290.A by causing Vulcan's identity as the source of the contribution to PEM to be concealed, and SMC 2.04.290.B by causing Vulcan to be omitted from the list of PEM's top five contributors."
The complaint was filed by Mayor Mike McGinn's reelection campaign. McGinn consultant John Wyble said in a statement, “I’ve never seen such a brazen level of coordination and concealment of donors in a mayor’s race."
CASE has agreed to pay a $1,500 fine; however, the commission director is giving the group a half-off discount provided that CASE doesn't commit another material ethics violation through the end of 2015. The full commission, which meets tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. in Seattle Municipal Tower Room 4070, must ratify the settlement by October 31.