September 22, 2019 Dena Jensen
About 4 days ago on September 18, 2019, I wrote a letter to 2019 Bellingham Mayoral candidate, April Barker, about the contribution made to her campaign back in June of this year by the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council, offering some of the information from a Facebook post made by Sandy Robson about their Public Disclosure Commission registration and reporting.
Although someone on April Barker’s campaign FB page was able to confirm that the email had been received at the address to which I sent it, I haven’t yet gotten an email response from April Barker herself.
I know that candidates aren’t always aware of certain types of information regarding specific political action committees (PACs) or their activities, so I wanted to inform her about some unethical campaign actions, and some actions damaging to progressive goals, that have been taken by the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council.
To: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, September 18, 2019, 6:25:39 PM PDT
Subject: Regarding an expenditure to your campaign by the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council
Dear Ms. Barker:
I am writing to let you know that in May of this year my partner, Sandy Robson, contacted the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) regarding the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council (WCAHC). I felt it was important for you to know about some elements surrounding the WCAHC, since PDC records show that their political action committee had made an expenditure to your campaign back in June of this year.
Sandy’s initial email to the PDC on May 17, 2019 was about the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council’s affiliation with the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County (BIAWC), which was undisclosed on the WCAHC C1PC report that Sandy viewed on the PDC site in May.
Backing up her contention that there was an affiliation between the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council and the BIAWC, Sandy explained that the address for the WCAHC on their C1PC report at that time, as well as their listed phone number were the same as those for the BIAWC. Additionally the email addresses listed on the WCAHC’s C1PC report were BIAWC.com email addresses.
Sandy received an email back numerous months later, in August 2019, from Scott Haley at the PDC explaining:
“Our definition of an affiliated committee is ‘a political committee established, financed, maintained or controlled by a corporation, union, trade association, collective bargaining organization, federation of labor unions or any membership organization.’ I contacted an official from the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council and he informed me that the council is not affiliated in this way with the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County, even though they share an address. They are not established, financed, maintained, or controlled by that entity.”
Here is a copy of an email response that Sandy sent back to Mr. Haley at the PDC:
A month later, on September 16, 2019, Sandy received a brief email response from Mr. Haley from the PDC saying: “The Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council has amended their political committee registrations to show that they are affiliated with the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County.”
That the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County sought to conceal their affiliation with the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council seems particularly egregious when there was such substantial evidence that they were, in fact affiliated.
Not only this, but Sandy also filed a complaint today with the PDC after taking a close look at the nature of contributors to the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council. It appears that they are receiving over 80% of their contributions from members (both businesses who are listed as members of the BIAWC in their online directory, and individuals who are listed as part of BIAWC leadership on their website) of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County. If the PDC verifies that this is the case and that all of these contributors meet the definition of being members of the BIAWC according to the PDC, then this would be a violation of WAC 390-16-011A. In Sandy’s complaint she wrote, in part:
“According to WAC 390-16-011A, if a political committee received eighty percent or more of its contributions from a person or from the person’s members, officers, employees, or shareholders under RCW 42.17A.005(46), it shall include on its C-1pc the name of at least one sponsor in the committee’s name.”
Also, in case you are not aware of certain activities of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County, I will include some of the information Sandy included in a Facebook post of hers about her contacting the PDC about the matter I described to you:
“Some people already knew that the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council political committee is affiliated with the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County (BIAWC). However, if you weren’t already aware of that, you wouldn’t have known by looking at the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council’s PDC registration (C1pc) form until this week.
“I think that’s important information for the public, especially voters, to have when they are looking to see what kind of campaigns are being funded by the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council’s political committee.
“The BIAWC, a trade and business advocacy organization primarily comprised of businesses related to the building and construction industry, often opposes various regulations and policies which are needed to better protect our environment.
“For example, the BIAWC was a big advocate of the then-proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point. In terms of local politics, here is some information about the kind of campaigns the BIAWC, through its affiliated Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council political committee, has supported:
“The Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council political committee contributed $3,000 to the 2015 coal terminal-funded ‘Clear Ballot Choices (Pacific International Terminals)’ PAC that was formed in support of District-Only voting, and against Five Fair and Equal Districts county charter propositions which appeared on the November 2015 general election ballot. Ultimately, the District-Only voting and the Five Fair and Equal Districts propositions were both approved by voters in that election. The over $70,000 in contributions raised by the ‘Clear Ballot Choices (Pacific International Terminals)’ PAC helped fuel the District-Only voting proposition victory.
“The Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council political committee has consistently contributed money to conservative (including Tea Party) candidates’ campaigns. In the 2013 Whatcom County election, its political committee supported, and contributed to, the four conservative candidates (Kershner, Knutzen, Luke, Elenbaas) who were running for County Council and were thought likely to approve the permits needed for then-proposed coal terminal when that issue was expected to go before the County Council.
“In the 2015 Whatcom County election, the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council political committee supported and contributed to pro-new jail Republican candidate for County Executive, Jack Louws, and pro-new jail Republican candidate for County Council, Bruce Ayers, and to Republican candidate for County Council, Kathy Kershner.
“In the 2017 Whatcom County election, the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council political committee supported and contributed to Port of Bellingham conservative candidates Ken Bell and Dan Robbins, and to conservative County Council candidates Mary Kay Robinson and Tyler Byrd.
“Also, the BIAWC sent a May 18, 2018 letter to the Whatcom County Council that warned against policies and rules which would result from the proposed Cherry Point Amendments. The proposed amendments are intended to provide stronger protections to the environment and public safety and health.”
Further, it might be important for you to know the names of the candidate’s campaigns to whom the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council reported making expenditures this election year of 2019: Citizens for Brad Kelly, Elenbaas 4 Council, Vote Kathy Kershner, and April Barker for Bellingham.
In the other election years that Sandy mentioned in her post, the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council did not list expenditures to any progressive candidates.
Considering the unethical actions of the WCAHC regarding their PDC filings, and their history for opposing important progressive goals in Whatcom County, I believe that should you choose to return the contribution that you received from this organization, it would be an action that shows a commitment to good ethics, honesty and transparency with your constituents, and the upholding of critical progressive goals in our community.
Please let me know if there are any other of the the supporting documents that Sandy sent into the PDC regarding the WCAHC of which you would like me to send a copy.
I would appreciate you letting me know you received this email, since I have not written to this email address previously. Thank you!
Birch Bay, WA