State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson
campaign finance lawsuits in King County Superior Court Monday
failed to maintain legally required information for Washington state
political advertising placed on their online platforms dating back to
campaign finance laws require commercial advertisers that sell
political advertising, maintain information about those who buy that
advertising. In turn the advertisers are also required to make that
information available to the public.
documents filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission, in the
last decade, Washington candidates and political committees reported
about $3.4 million in payments to Facebook and $1.5 million to Google
related to advertising.
political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone, whether you
are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation,” Ferguson
said. “Washingtonians have a right to know who’s paying
for the political advertising they see.”
required to collect information on the sources and payments of
political advertising and make it available for public inspection.
The information advertisers are legally required to collect includes:
name of the candidate or measure supported or opposed;
dates the advertiser provided the service;
name and address of the person who sponsored the advertising; and
total cost of the advertising, who paid for it (which may be different
than the sponsor) and what method of payment they used.
complaints precede AG’s lawsuit
Attorney General’s Office received citizen action notices
alleging that Facebook and Google had not provided any of the legally
required information on political advertisements run on their
platforms associated with several Washington state campaigns.
law allows a
member of the public to visit a commercial advertiser during normal
business hours and see who is paying for the political advertising
they run, and how much the campaign committee is spending.
that Facebook and Google did not provide Washingtonians the same
opportunity. Ferguson cites as an example, Eli Sanders, Associate
Editor of The Stranger, hand-delivered a letter
companies’ Seattle offices requesting information on 2017
municipal election political advertising, but neither company
provided him any of the legally required information.
Facebook allegedly did not obtain or maintain all the information
required of campaign advertisers, including the names and addresses
of all persons from whom they accepted advertising, or the total cost
and manner of payment.
the state seeks penalties and injunctive relief. The defendants have
20 days from the date they are served to respond to the state’s
summary of the
Attorney General’s Office campaign finance case resolutions is