PDC Complaint Filed against Clear Ballot Choices (Pacific International Terminals LLC) / Noisy Waters Northwest

pdc complaint cbcOctober 30, 2015  Dena Jensen

As if you didn’t know it in your heart of hearts! Here’s an inside look by way of this Public Disclosure Commission complaint at how things went down when and where we, the public, couldn’t see it, with the last minute emergence of the Clear Ballot Choices political action committee formed by Gateway Pacific coal terminal project co-owner (with Cloud Peak Energy) and SSA Marine subsidiary, Pacific International Terminals.

The complaint was filed by Alex Ramel . This document speaks for itself.  Read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt to get you started:


“These violations of the reporting requirements conspired to prevent the release of exactly the kind of information that the PDC exists to make available. The donor in question is a project applicant to the County government with a clear agenda. The dollar figures are enormous by the scale of Whatcom County elections. The operatives involved are seasoned political actors who have no excuse for not following the rules. And the impact of their failure was a clear, foreseeable and significant advantage for the ends of PIT [Pacific International Terminals] and CBC [Clear Ballot Choices].

“As a result of these three failures, CBC’s existence and true funding source was not known to the public until October 19. Had they followed the law, their existence would have been known in September and their funding source would have been disclosed on October 13. During these six days, several significant consequences to CBC’s illegal action occurred:

“On October 14, the Bellingham Herald published an article (http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/politics-government/election/local- election/article39236730.html) discussing the ballot measures in question. It is common practice for the Bellingham Herald reporter to reach out to a number of sources as they develop a story like this, and information travels and it becomes common knowledge that a story is pending. It is clear from the contents of the article that the reporter had been reaching out to conservatives for comments for several days. The article states that, “[conservative charter review commission member Chet] Dow couldn’t be reached for comment in the days before this story was published…”

“It is reasonable to assume that CBC was advised that this article was coming; they would be ineffective political operatives if they didn’t know. Moreover, it is clear to anyone following Whatcom County politics that the presence of a significant donation by the proponents of North America’s largest coal export terminal would immediately become significant news. This is not speculation, these same organizations donated a similar amount to a different PAC in 2013 and it inspired significant local media coverage.

 “An awareness of this PAC and these sizable donations would have completely changed the contents of this story, which is probably the single most significant news coverage of these propositions. The exclusion of this information from the article was absolutely to the advantage of CBC.
“Ballots were mailed in Whatcom County on October 14. Voters in Whatcom County received their ballots on the 15th through 17th and many voted over the weekend, mailed their ballot in and never knew that these hidden contributions were a factor in the elections. Over the past several years I have personally talked to more than a thousand voters in Whatcom County, and for many of them the coal terminal is the single most important issue governing their decision about how to vote. That is information that the public had a right to know before making these decisions, and they didn’t get it for the first five days in the 20 day election period.

“And finally, political action committees working the other side of the election, and playing by the rules, were put at a strategic disadvantage because of CBC’s violations. Political expenditures made in the last few weeks of a campaign are always triage decisions – which voters to reach out to, what message to focus on and when. Knowing what your opponent is doing, or has the funds to do, is a critical part of these decisions. The PDC requirements for disclosure mandate that political actors reveal to their opponents information that, in a tight election, could easily be the difference between winning and losing. These rules are only made fair because both sides are at an equal disadvantage. But by breaking the law, CBC waited for their opponents to reveal their cards, made strategic decisions and then revealed their own cards. Six days may seem like a short amount of time, but it was nearly a third of the time remaining in the election and most of the time remaining to make decisions about media purchases.”

Click the graphic for the whole document, or use this link: https://noisywatersnw.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/alex-ramel-complaint-form-re-clear-ballot-choices-pacific-international-terminals-llc-signed.pdf

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