State disclosure agency opens investigation into Ag Water and Power Users group

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OLYMPIA — A formal investigation was opened Tuesday against Ag Water and Power Users of Grant County by the state Public Disclosure Commission, according to PDC staff.

The investigation comes following complaints filed against the group for failure to register as a political committee and failure to file contributions or expenditures during the 2018 elections.

The group was the largest single contributor to the county’s two Public Utility District elections, donating $27,902 each to Judy Wilson and Nelson Cox and helping to make the race the most expensive in the state. By the end of the election, the race accounted for at least 71 percent of all campaign contributions spent on PUD races in Washington last year.

In a response to PDC staff filed in late November, Ag Water and Power Users of Grant County president Travis Meacham wrote that initial conversations with PDC staff in July 2018 had led the group to believe that it was not required to file as a Political Action Committee.

“Our group operated under that knowledge and do not believe that we needed to take any further steps,” Meacham wrote.

The group filed paperwork with the PDC Dec. 21 declaring itself as a Political Action Committee, and also submitted declarations of contributions which are now available on the PDC’s website.

PDC staff said Tuesday that the group has been cooperating with staff and that it remains to be seen whether the investigation will result in any further penalties. The PDC’s primary priority in these cases is to bring groups into compliance, said Kim Bradford, Communications and Outreach Director for the PDC.

PDC staff could not indicate how long investigations typically take. They also said that the state agency is currently investigating 20 separate complaints against organizations that engaged in Washington elections in 2018.

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