Jansen files campaign financing complaint against opponent

Petitioning candidate Cheryl Jansen has filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) claiming that Republican Ben McGorty’s campaign received more public campaign funding than it should have because McGorty doesn’t have a major party challenger.

Jansen and Green Party candidate Kelly Hanna are challenging McGorty in the 122nd District, which includes almost half of Shelton.

McGorty was first elected in a July 22 special election this year, when he did have a Democratic opponent. He also had an Aug. 12 Republican primary as part of this year’s general election cycle.

A candidate is supposed to receive only 60% of the full grant amount if he or she has only a minor party or petitioning candidate to run against, and only 30% if unopposed.

Jansen said McGorty “applied for” and “received” the full amount of $27,850 from the Citizens Election Program for the general election, but he should have gotten only $16,710, according to Jansen’s complaint.

SEEC: It's our responsibility

The SEEC’s Joshua Foley, speaking in a general sense and not addressing this specific case, said it’s the SEEC’s responsibility to determine how much funding a candidate is eligible to receive.

“We take it upon ourselves to ascertain before we give out the funding,” said Foley, the SEEC’s staff attorney and spokesman.

Foley said he couldn’t confirm or deny that a complaint by Jansen has been received until the next SEEC meeting, when the agency might decide whether to act on the issue.

McGorty said he’s received a letter from the SEEC informing him of the complaint and advising him the matter is confidential at this time, “so I don’t want to comment on it.”

Jansen said even if the SEEC made a mistake, both that agency and McGorty are responsible because McGorty should understand the law.

She said the situation shows that the state Citizens Election Program (public financing) has gotten out of control, and that the promise of creating a level playing field when it passed hasn’t been realized.

A candidate without a major party opponent should get less — it’s that simple, Jansen said. “If that doesn't happen and they get to fund their campaign with a full grant then where is the fairness?” she asked.

Three elections in same year

This has been a confusing year in the 122nd District, with two elections in 15 weeks as well as a GOP primary due to the death of longtime state Rep. Larry Miller in late May.

McGorty also is facing two opponents in the general election, not one, although neither is the Democratic nominee.