State Public Disclosure Commission seeks public comment on use of previous campaign funds

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) will hold a special meeting Thursday, May 11 to gather public comment on, and consider two options for, agency guidance regarding use of campaign money received for a different office than currently sought.

The meeting at 9:30 a.m. May 11 will be held remotely. More information about joining the meeting will be published on the PDC website on Monday, May 8.

Written comments about the issue and the possible guidance expressed below should be submitted by noon Tuesday, May 9, the PDC said. Send written comments to and include “Comment on Commission meeting agenda item” in the subject line.

Under RCW 42.17A.490, a candidate who solicits contributions for a state, local, or judicial office may not use those contributions to seek a different office without first obtaining written approval from the persons or entities who gave the contributions.

The question before the commission is whether those contributions authorized for transfer by the original contributors are subject to individual contribution limits in the new campaign or can be transferred as surplus from the prior campaign in a lump sum.

Commissioners are considering two options on which they invite comment:

Option 1: Current agency guidance

When a candidate is transferring contributions left over from a previously completed election campaign to a new campaign for a different office, those contributions that are moved to the new campaign are NOT attributed to their sources, nor do they count toward the contributor’s limit for the new campaign.

The funds are simply moved as a lump sum of surplus funds to the new account, and reported as surplus funds from a previous campaign deposited into the new campaign account with permission from the donors. There might be a succession of transfers to the new account, depending on when the campaign receives the written permission.

Option 2: Proposed alternative to current guidance

When, with the written approval of the contributor, a candidate is transferring contributions left over from a previously completed election campaign, whether or not designated as surplus funds, to a new campaign for a different office, those contributions that are moved to the new campaign must be attributed to their sources, and count toward the contributor’s limit for the new campaign. Each contributor whose written approval was obtained must be identified along with their contribution.



  1. Left over campaign donations should be given to charity. Seek new office or the same for that matter should be new money. Take the big money out of politics

    1. It is a virtuous statement, something we should expect from our leaders. After all they work for us don’t they? Somewhere that point is lost in the conversation.

  2. I agree with Jim Fairchild’s statement that leftover funds in all races should be donated to charity. Doing so would help level the field between incumbents and challengers as well as eliminate the current and proposed cumbersome processes.

  3. Elections are expensive. Share the left over with the opposition? Never happen but $ taint the process. We need a better way to fund elections.

  4. Darrol, if you’re referring to my comment, are you thinking that charities and “the opposition” are the same thing?

    1. Sadly, Shirley that could be an issue. We are as officials supposed to be non partisan. Some of our charities may go to things that others don’t support with charitable donations or in ideals. I wish it wasn’t this way but it is here very much so. I do think someone suggested the candidate running or ran and had leftover could choose the charity they want their overage to be contributed to. This way we all win and charities will still be promoted. Does that work for you? Just thinking. Thanks.

  5. No referring to both you and Jim. Charities need money and one way to help is to dump left over campaign funds to charities.
    But concepts like “big money” “level the playing field” probably need more than a statement to make it true.

    Big money will support who they want but maybe not for the new office. But more than likely that same big money will contribute to the new campaign. So, giving that money to charity will do little to keep big money out of the race.

    Distributing left over money would help a little to level the playing field but only for the start. Big money will be back.

    It might be interesting to see if there are other ways to level the playing field.

  6. Let’s not be naive here. For corporations and “big money” political campaigns are an investment for which they seek a return on that investment. The return can take any number of forms from favorable legislation to appointments to various committees, commissions, or other note-worthy activity. And that’s not to say favorable status on procurement bids.

    During election season, it’s good to monitor where a candidate’s money is coming in from. Better yet to try to determine what strings may be attached.

    I agree with the idea that any left-over contributions be given to a local charity or charities in the district/city for which the election is for. Or maybe a better/different idea is to deposit it in escrow for the citizens to use to get referendums on the ballot. Bypass the elected officials all together!

    1. Corporations would be less likely to invest if their money can’t be carried forward. At a local level this could work, everyone wins. Even if their candidate doesn’t win. I think it is a ethics issue. If I donated to a winning candidate and they had a lot of money to use left over but now I am no longer a supporter one might say my money is now going against me. A clean account is in the best interest of all voters. Super PACs are a bigger problem especially if they get involved in small town politics. My 2 cents.

  7. Jim, the idea of depositing left-over money in escrow for citizens’ use for initiatives/referendums is worth considering too; an idea worth passing on to the PDC.

    1. The commission is just looking for input between two options for campaign contributions. They’re not open to new thinking or ideas. It’s just more of the same old-style politics.

  8. The more I think about what has been said in this thread the more ideas come to mind. Why don’t we have each candidate for public office in Edmonds commit left-over campaign contributions to an Edmonds charity of their choice. They can make the commitment and name the charity on their website for transparency. Let’s lead by example. We don’t need to wait for the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission for any “guidance”.

    Candidates, who’s in?

    1. Jim, you make an interesting and helpful suggestion. In the unlikely event I have money left over at the end of my campaign for city council, I’ll donate it to the Edmonds Food Bank.

      1. If no one else runs for this position, you will have all your money to give to the Food Bank. So if folks want to help out the Food Bank, don’t challange Roger!

      2. Thanks for leading, Roger. BTW, the Edmonds Food Bank is a great cause too.

        Now let’s hear from the other candidates!

  9. I encourage all to submit your creative suggestions to the PDC soon. It’s a simple email process so there’s room for responding to the two options plus adding your own. So far there are fewer than 10 respondents, so that gives all a better chance of influence.

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