April 13, 2006
Darcy Burner campaign finance flap

The Darcy Burner campaign late yesterday afternoon reposted the video that was the subject of the state GOP's campaign finance complaint. The video, posted here, was produced for the Burner campaign under the name of "Eastside Democracy for America", an unregistered group affiliated witih Democracy for America. The Eastside Democracy for America folks, some of whom also blog at "Northwest Progressive Institute" defend their action here:

Eastside Democracy for America is not a 527, a PAC, non-profit organization, company or corporation of any kind We are an informal group of private citizens ...
Andrew Tsao, co-organizer of Eastside DFA and producer of the video materials mentioned in the FEC complaint, is a private citizen ... He produced the video with volunteer efforts, with equipment he owns privately, and edited, duplicated and distributed the videos entirely on his own. The total out of pocket expenses for producing both videos mentioned in the FEC complaint was less than $200.00. ... In addition, the event mentioned on October 10, 2005 was an Eastside DFA meeting held at the Northwest Arts Center, rented by Andrew Tsao for less than $50.00.
And that's all good and fine. But as far as I can tell from perusing the FEC website, all of the costs of producing and distributing the video, apart from the volunteer labor, should have been considered a coordinated expenditure on behalf of a campaign and subject to reporting as an in-kind contribution to the campaign. (See here and here). Maybe I'm wrong, so perhaps a neutral expert could explain why this is or is not a case of a coordinated expenditure that the Darcy Burner campaign should simply report as such?

And in the meantime, I'm still waiting for the Burner campaign to explain how the video can claim that she raised $100,000 in the first 100 days of her campaign, when FEC records show she raised at most half that amount.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at April 13, 2006 11:33 AM | Email This
1. This is the trouble with campaign finance regulations. "Informal groups of private citizens" aren't supposed to just do this sort of thing any more. Which is ridiculous.

I trust that the same people defending Andrew Tsao for using resources at his disposal to help the campaign of a candidate he supports also support John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur, who used resources at their disposal to help the campaign of an initiative they supported.

But, you know, they're Republicans, so it's different somehow.

Posted by: Timothy on April 13, 2006 11:58 AM
2. Stephan,
No the video will not be classified as a "in kind contribution". Only talk radio hosts from KVI are subject to that rule. Just read the Seattle PI story:


I wonder how many of the Seattle PI Editorial Board contribute to the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Mike P on April 13, 2006 12:03 PM
3. Stefan, on this note you are correct.

If only people of all parties would honor this rule. Seems like they never do....and never will.

It's kinda why people lost trust in government elected officials. From both parties.

Posted by: LovinUSA on April 13, 2006 12:50 PM
4. Maybe someone can explain to me how that video, even if the total "out of pocket" expenses were only $250, is actually worth $250. Didn't Carlson and Wilbur have to report the actual value of their "in kind contributions" to I-912? If it's the value of the video, it's alot more than $250.

Posted by: Palouse on April 13, 2006 12:55 PM
5. It's always do as they say, not as they do. It's evil Republican hatred when Stefan does it, but it's merely fair mudslinging when it come from Goldstein. The left is relativism.

Posted by: Jeff B. on April 13, 2006 01:36 PM
6. Mike P. beat me to it... but it does sort of open up a can of worms, doesn't it? If a group of "private citizens" can produce and distribute a video advocating a postition or candidate for office and not have to report it as an in kind contribution, then shouldn't KVI hosts and producers, as "private citizens", be able to produce and distribute a radio broadcast advocating a position or candidate? How much of a difference is there really between the two?

Posted by: Mike H on April 13, 2006 01:43 PM
7. This is a case of amateur hour action and amateur hour response by Darcy Burner's campaign.

The video is a contribution, and it doesn't matter what the status of the Eastside DFA is, any contribution in-kind, from anyone or any entity, must be reported by the candidate's committee. It also doesn't matter if it cost $250 or $250,000 in out of pocket expenses, the contribution is reported at the value that the campaign would expect to pay for such services professionally.

Darcy Burner's campaign is required by law to report the contribution to the FEC, disclosing the usual and ordinary value for the goods or services donated and identifying the donor.

From an FEC AO on in-kind contributions:

"The definition of “contribution” in 2 U.S.C. 431(8) includes a gift of “anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” 431(8)(A)(i); see also 11 CFR 100.52(a). Commission regulations define “anything of value” in this context as an in-kind contribution. This type of contribution includes “the provision of any goods or services without charge or at a charge that is less than the usual and normal charge for such goods or services.” 11 CFR 100.52(d)(1). Because it is as if funds were given to pay for the goods or services in question, an in-kind contribution is treated as both a “contribution” to and an “expenditure” by the political committee receiving the in-kind contribution."

It would appear as if the Burner campaign has failed to disclose this contribution's existence, its value and its source - if that is the case, than her campaign can be found by the FEC to be in violation of federal campaign finance laws.

Beyond Burner's bumbling, there may be additional concerns for the Eastside DFA, which at least with some filings with the State of Washington, is an official entity and not the spontaneous grassroots effort of a bunch of bleeding hearts from Bellevue. The organization's filing status may not be in compliance with Washington State election law, but I have not seen enough info about the subject to know with any confidence. If the organization meet's the FEC definition of a political organization, it's contributions to the Burner campaign may also put it in violation of federal election laws.

All that campaign finance crap aside, Burner can expect at worst a minor fine, and given the FEC's administrative fine procedures, she may get off with a warning. Campaign finance laws are arduous and compliance by small time candidates can often be a challenge.

That said, if her campaign is stumbling over issues like this, Dave Reichert has little to worry about in November.

Posted by: Kevin on April 13, 2006 01:52 PM
8. Kevin hit the nail on the head.
In-kind contributions are regulated too.
Just think if Steven Speilberg had produced this video & others with his "own equipment" and "expertise"??!
The end justifies any means according to Andrew SOW....oops, I TSAO.

Posted by: Mr. Cynical on April 13, 2006 02:33 PM
9. Seems alot like this little "group of like-minded people" is trying to skirt being a nonconnected PAC to avoid campaign finance reporting. I wonder how many times a different group of "like-minded" people can get together, produce something of value for a campaign, then disband and form another group and do the same thing without actually reporting any of it under PAC rules.

The video itself would seem to fit the definition of a contribution posted above.

Posted by: Palouse on April 13, 2006 02:36 PM

This is hilarious, never in my life have I seen so much words dedicated to what appears to be a dispute over a single "contribution" valued at $250 that may or may not require reporting.

Go back to picking the lint out of your navel - it's much more productive.

Dave's got problems - he's voted against stem cel research and for criminalizing all undocumented workers - not exactly middle of the road positions. It's very likely that he's out of step with his district and, if that's the case, he should be voted out of office. End of story.

Posted by: claire on April 13, 2006 04:56 PM
11. Well, a court will decide if the video was an in-kind contribution, and when they do, the value of that contribution will be quite a bit more than $250. Then the Burner campaign will be fined for a violation of campaign finance laws.

But of course breaking the law is excusable in Democratic circles with their willingness to turn a blind eye to this and McDermott's indiscretions. She should go ahead and admit this was a contribution, if not she has no business in public office. End of story.

Posted by: Palouse on April 13, 2006 05:05 PM
12. claire,

Ahhhh....more talk about Dave Reichert. In all the discussions about Darcy Burner - nobody actually talks about Darcy Burner.

It's a Dave Reichert election - which means Dave Reichert is elected. You heard it here first.

Kevin's right - If Darcy Burner's campaign can't figure out which contributions need to be reported, they're completely unorganized at this point. That's a red flag that she's going to get what's in her shorts handed to her in November.

Posted by: Larry on April 13, 2006 05:57 PM
13. Since Andrew Tsao says that it only costs $250 to produce such a video, I say that people should contact him at:



to arrange for more $250 videos. Since he is a "professional" and IF he is telling the truth, the cost to produce a comparable corporate video or commercial or whatever should only be $250.

Send in your RFB's (requests for bid) today! Maybe all of us can get slick videos for only $250!

Posted by: (The Real) Mark on April 13, 2006 06:03 PM
14. I just got robo-smeared by the DNC via voice-mail! Darcy's minions want me to believe that Delay and Reichert are as "one" and she is the enlightened "progressive" for Congress. She remains unqualified, She is Dave Ross's lap dog (socialist to the core) and she can't seem to remember what her last couple of Job Titles were. Darcy, maybe you can go door to door with your buddy Ron Sims too! Start in Carnation, you know that little town next to where you live where nobody knows you.

Posted by: Just Wondering on April 13, 2006 06:57 PM
15. Enough - unjustified publicity for Burner. She's established herself as a slimebag and a hack - with all due respect. The Dem machine with Goldy-Klownstein eagerly waited to get his licks in - Just ask how she would handle securing the borders ? Come on, someone just ask her, watch her blather out her canned rhetoric.

The dead horse has been soundly beaten. Time to MOVE ON !

Posted by: KS on April 13, 2006 10:26 PM
16. Burner will NOT win. SHe doesn't have what it takes. Reichert will be re-elected.

Posted by: Misty on April 14, 2006 02:33 AM
17. I have three questions after reading this post: 1) How can Eastside DFA say they are unaffiliated and not a PAC, when you can join their group through DFA's main website, login as a "member" through DFA's website, and all the while DFA's "about" statement says they are a PAC? Seems like a contradiction to me, but maybe I'm not smart enough to figure out all the shades of truth the left uses these days. Perhaps it's not just the Burner campaign that is running afoul of FEC regulations. According to regulations, if Eastside DFA is receiving funds or other things of value (online registration, member logins, etc., would definitely be called "things of value") and the amount received or expended is over $1000, then Eastside DFA would be required by law to register as a PAC by my understanding of the regulations. Since video production is generally pretty expensive, the odds are that even if $250 is all the video cost at fair value that this should be investigated and likely filed as a complaint by WSRP as well.

2) If Darcy Burner's campaign is using non-Microsoft technology for their videos, what does that say about her "decision" to leave Microsoft? Wouldn't an "executive" have a vested interest in promoting a company that they would have thousands of shares in? Or maybe she didn't really have all that many shares because she was not, indeed, an exec but simply a line manager who continues to shamelessly fluff her resume.

3) What is the real reason anyone should vote for someone with no experience who, right out of the gate, creates a taint of corruption before they've even been exposed to the PAC trough in DC? If she's violating rules now, I can't even imagine how she'll be twisted around once the PACs and Murray and the rest teach her how to *really* manipulate the system.

Posted by: Marc on April 14, 2006 02:38 AM
18. These are my own opinions:

1. Eastside DFA is using infrastructure made available for free by Democracy for America. E-DFA doesn't pay anything to use the networking tools. DFA is a Federal PAC that handles their own books. The website is just a communications tool. Eastside DFA is a grassroots group of activists. "... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Do the FEC laws trump the Constitution, or does the Constitution trump the FEC? And how does the Internet change the game? These are the questions for the court.

2. So, nobody who every worked for Microsoft is allowed to use anything except Microsoft software? Doesn't that vested interest become extinct when she stopped working for them?

3. Real reason? Look at the issues and vote your values. If Reichert is doing what you consider the right thing, he deserves your vote. If not, look at the other options. Simple enough.

Posted by: Chad Lupkes on April 18, 2006 09:00 AM
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