Newhouse Campaign Official Fined for Violations By State Ethics Commission
The Washington State Executive Ethics board says there's "reasonable cause" behind allegations that the Grant County Chairman of the Dan Newhouse campaign, who is also the Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission, committed ethics violations this summer. The violations stem from using state potato commission resources to help the campaign. And there's more.
The Yakima Herald Republic reports Chris Voight admitted using his own email service as well as using his commission issued vehicle to deliver campaign signs and materials to supporters. He is facing fines of up to $10,000 or can enter into a settlement.
However, while Voight claims he is allowed to use his potato commission email for private use in off hours per his contract, the Didier campaign points out it's the content and impression of the emails that would lead one to believe the potato commission (a non-partisan state agency) supports Newhouse. According to the Didier campaign:
"For example, a March 18, 2014 email from Chris Voigt “strongly urged” potato farmers to attend a fundraiser for Dan Newhouse and included an attached invitation from the official campaign. “I’m really hoping we can have a strong showing from the potato industry at this event…it’s important that Dan is able to show in the next Federal Elections Commission report that he is doing great with fund raising. This will be the most important fund raising event Dan will be hosting.”
And in a March 21 email signed “Chris Voigt, Executive Director, Washington State Potato Commission” Voigt again pushed potato farmers to attend the Newhouse fundraiser: “I hope you and Liz will consider attending. I’d really like to see about 10 potato folks there. Dan is going to win it…it will discourage others from further diluting the race.”
“It’s not just that he’s using his email and car,” says Didier, “but what’s even worse is using the influence and power of his state title and position. And I’m just shocked to find out that Voigt authorized the Potato Commission to co-host a high-dollar fundraiser for Patty Murray. This is a clear violation of both state and federal law.”
It appears that Voight is trying to push this as a technicality, but from the evidence produced by the Didier campaign, it appears Voight is clearly using his Potato Commission office to persuade people to lean towards Newhouse.
Dider says Newhouse cannot claim he didn't know what Voight was doing, because there are emails between the two discussing these type of issues.
As Didier himself pointed out, he himself is a potato farmer, and pays into the commission..."He's using my own money to campaign against me."
Didier's campaign has now filed a complaint in Federal Court in Richland to order the Potato Commission and Voight to cease all campaigning for Newhouse that involves any use of commission funds, resources, or personnel. The court is being asked to immediately issue an injunction to stop violating The Hatch Act, or federal election laws.