Renton City Council candidate says critic violating finance statutes

A Renton City Council candidate has alleged that a vocal critic violated campaign-finance rules with an antagonistic Web site and yard signs.

In a complaint Wednesday to the state Public Disclosure Commission, Cheryl Haskins claims Renton resident Kevin Poole did not properly register as a political committee.

PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said she could not comment on the complaint, and that the agency would decide within a couple of weeks whether to investigate.

State law defines a political committee as a person or group fundraising in favor of, or in opposition to, a candidate or ballot measure.

Poole said he contacted the PDC early on to ask for advice.

"I made a good-faith effort to determine what the rules and regulations were," he said. "I believed I was working within the law."

On his Web site, Poole questions Haskins' candidacy, saying it's funded mostly by people who live outside Renton, some of them affiliated with a group called Allies for Marriage and Children, a nonprofit that has fought in Olympia against gay marriage and domestic-partnership benefits. Until recently, Haskins was executive director of the group.

Poole's yard signs claim outside interests are funding Haskins' campaign.

Haskins has argued that her views on gay marriage have no place in local politics, and that she has the experience, as a former businesswoman and teacher, and the fresh perspective to help Renton as it grows.

Former Councilmember King Parker is her opponent.

Haskins said she filed the complaint because it seemed clear from the number of yard signs Poole has put up, that he's spent significant money and should have filed with the PDC by now.

"He's not complying with the public-disclosure laws. He needs to be called on it."

Poole said he funded his campaign with his own credit card, which would suggest he does not fit the definition of a political committee. But the PDC said Poole may have misunderstood other campaign-finance rules.

Until Wednesday, Poole's Web site had a link that asked people who felt similarly about Haskins' political views to vote for her opponent. That put him in the category of an individual who is doing independent ads for or against a candidate or ballot measure, Anderson said.

And in that case, Poole is supposed to file with the PDC after spending $100.

Poole said he understood from his earlier conversation with the PDC that the limit was $700. After a discussion with staff Wednesday, Poole said he was filling out the necessary paperwork for the $650 he's already spent.

"I'm a stickler for details, and obviously in this case there was a misunderstanding," he said.

Haskins said she has also filed a complaint with the Renton Police Department, saying someone stole 600 yard signs, and that some that remain are papered over with Poole's stickers.

In an interview, she suggested Poole could have been involved. He denied that, saying he would never try to suppress her message.

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or