For the past couple weeks I’ve been hearing rumors of Republican wags bragging that Dan Satterberg has a $180,000 head start in the race to replace the late Norm Maleng as King County Prosecutor. Seemed like an awful lot of money to raise so quickly. But now I understand what they were talking about.
According to a press release issued today by the Washington State Democratic Party:
Top Democrats today responded to widespread rumors that the Republican Party is planning to funnel the $194,000 remaining in the campaign coffers of late King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng into partisan attacks intended to influence the special election this fall to name Maleng’s replacement.
Under state law, it is illegal to transfer so-called “surplus” campaign funds – the money left over after retirement, loss, or death – from one candidate’s accounts directly to that of another candidate. It is, however, legal to donate to charity, or to a party organization— but if the funds do go to a political party, any quid pro quo understanding that the funds will then be donated to or spent in support a particular candidate would run afoul of Washington State’s campaign finance laws.
In the case of the prosecutor’s race, State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz says that if large amounts of cash from Maleng’s campaign coffers are funneled through the Republican Party back to the GOP nominee for the position, Republican Dan Satterberg – as some Satterberg backers have been whispering is likely – it would be tantamount to the sort of illegal and unethical political money laundering that Republicans have become known for on the national level.
“A fair minded leader like Norm Maleng should not have his campaign cash laundered through a Tom Delay-style money machine,” said Pelz, who worked with Maleng during his eight years on the King County Council. “Out of respect for Maleng’s legacy, that money should rightfully go to charity, not to fund attack ads or earmarked to help anoint a partisan replacement.”
Maleng gets a lot of well-deserved credit for having kept politics out of his office, and both Satterberg and Democratic frontrunner Bill Sherman have promised to build on that legacy. But I don’t see how Satterberg can fulfill that pledge if he allows his handlers — such as two-time Bush-Cheney WA State chair Mike McKay — to help him win office by sullying Maleng’s memory through creative accounting.
On the other hand, the rumor I heard may only be just that. Maleng was the co-chair with Gov. Chris Gregoire of the Seattle chapter of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (CAN). Seattle CAN is holding a long-scheduled fundraising breakfast next Tuesday, June 26, at the Washington Athletic Club, and I’ve also heard rumors that Maleng’s wife Judy will not only be attending in his place, but will announce a “large donation” in his honor.
Now that would be a non-partisan use of surplus campaign funds worthy of Maleng’s legacy.
FYI, tickets for the Seattle CAN breakfast ($100 to $5000) are still available.
Mike McKay responds:
“No money will be spent directly or indirectly to help (acting prosecutor) Dan Satterberg,” Seattle attorney Mike McKay said unequivocally Tuesday. He said Judy Maleng, the late prosecutor’s widow, “has made that clear.”
That’s good to hear.