The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has called out the Washougal Moms group for failing to register as a political action committee.
In a formal written warning issued by the PDC on Oct. 27, the state commission said the Washougal Moms had also failed to identify its financial sponsors and had not reported required financial contributions and expenditures, per state law.
Formed in May to defend three mothers accused of disrupting a Washougal School Board meeting, the Washougal Moms group has since hosted a “tribunal” to elect a shadow school board, posted vehement opposition to at least one school board incumbent running for reelection and called for current school board officials to be removed and arrested.
Washougal residents Melanie Wilson and Wendi Moose sent complaints to the PDC regarding the Washougal Moms earlier this year, alleging the group was actively campaigning against school board incumbents and accepting contributions to buy campaign-related signs and fund a website but had not registered with the state as a political action group.
“The impact on the public of this group has been profound, since school board meetings have become tense with members of this group both vitriolically berating school board members and inviting individuals — such as a non-resident ‘Proud Boy’ — to threaten school board members. They have offered to write prepared statements for individuals willing to appear at school board meetings,” Wilson wrote in her complaint.
Moose told The Post-Record she believes members of the Washougal Moms group are “extremists calling themselves ‘concerned parents.'”
“First, they barrage and block legitimate political signs that they dislike while leaving those they like alone,’ Moose wrote in her complaint to the PDC. “Secondly, the amount of lies they are spreading are affecting our school board meetings. They have called the school board their ‘enemy,’ spread disinformation and invited extremist groups like the Proud Boys to help harass, threaten (and) intimidate others.”
“Members of the community and parents are scared to attend these meetings to speak up because of their actions,” Moose added. “They have created a climate that makes them feel comfortable threatening board members, calling them names, calling out their spouses/families, and calling for another civil war.”
The PDC issued a formal written warning to the Washougal Moms on Oct. 27. In the warning, the PDC said the group has received an in-kind contribution for signs placed around the Camas-Washougal area; supported and opposed political candidates; and solicited and accepted contributions.
“Taken together, these activities meet the requirements under Washington state law for Washougal Moms to register with the Public Disclosure Commission as a political committee and report its contributions and expenditures,” the PDC wrote in an Oct. 27 email to the Washougal Moms.
The PDC said the group must include the phrases “paid for by” or “sponsored by” followed by its name and address on websites that display advertising supporting or opposing candidates or ballot measures.
The PDC also said the group must register as a political action committee for the 2021 election by Oct. 31, 2021, “and, in the future, timely and accurately file PDC reports and disclose contributions and expenditures as required by law.”
A Washougal Moms representative told The Post-Record the complaints are “false and politically motivated” and claimed without proof that Moose and Wilson were working on behalf of Washougal School Board incumbent Donna Sinclair.
“Allegations are just that — allegations,” the Washougal Moms representative said.
On Oct. 14, the Washougal Moms emailed the PDC, stating: “Lol (laugh out loud) we are not a ‘political’ anything and do not support any political candidates. But we will fix the wording for the triggered individual.”
The group responded to the allegations in more detail in an Oct. 18 email, saying that it simply “runs a Telegram page that screenshots all the horrible things (our) public officials have done” and it is not a public committee.”
“We have not taken money for signs or any political contributions,” the group wrote in its Oct. 18 email to the PDC. “I’m not exactly sure what we have to disprove. … Washougal Moms is not a corporation or an organization that’s nonprofit or for-profit.”
Moose said she was “ecstatic” about the PDC ruling: “I am ecstatic about the findings because (the group has) harassed and tried to intimidate the school board for the past six months, saying the school board is engaging in illegal activity, which they are not,” Moose said. “I find this deliciously ironic and dangerously hypocritical.”
Moose added that she would be more satisfied if she’d seen any indication the Washougal Moms intended to comply with the PDC’s order.
“I believe they were supposed to respond by Oct. 31 by updating their website and filing proper documents with the PDC. I have not seen any update to their website as of today,” Moose told The Post-Record on Nov. 1. “I do not know if they filed those documents with the PDC yet. I was surprised to see the PDC add additional violations beyond what we included in our complaints.”
As of this newspaper’s print deadline on Nov. 2, the group was not yet listed as a political action committee on the PDC’s site.