Senate Oks Bill To Give Pdc Clout To Collect Unpaid Fines

OLYMPIA - Lawmakers hope to give the state's campaign-spending watchdog the teeth it needs to put the bite on politicians and lobbyists who refuse to pay their fines.

The Public Disclosure Commission is owed more than $30,000 in fines for campaign-spending-law violations, PDC Executive Director Melissa Warheit said yesterday.

Most of the uncollected fines are more than a year old, but the PDC lacks the power to enforce them against the 137 violators.

The Senate yesterday passed a bill that would help if it can win approval in the House.

Under the bill, SSB 6667, interest would begin to accrue on unpaid fines after 90 days. Courts could also impose late penalties of up to 100 percent.

The heavy threat would come once a court upheld the fine. Warheit said the PDC could then prohibit a candidate from appearing on the ballot, a company from hiring a lobbyist, a lobbyist from registering or collecting any fees, and a political-action committee from collecting or spending money.

"Unfortunately, our PDC laws are flagrantly flouted," said Sen. Kevin Quigley, D-Lake Stevens, sponsor of the measure. "If they are not enforced they will not be followed."

The largest late fine, Warheit said, is $5,000 owed by ex-lobbyist Geoffrey Gibbs. Gibbs was fined in 1991 for failing to report more than $100,000 in lobbying expenses.

The entire list was unavailable yesterday.