State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 98-05
May an elected partisan official gather campaign funds while in office as a partisan official and then resign from office and run in a judicial election and either ask the donors through the candidate’s former party or non-partisan (judicial election) treasurer to have the donors authorize the transfer of the campaign “war chest” to their judicial campaign?
Does it matter if some of the donors are PACs, lobbyists and other political interest groups that contributed to the official because of their political party affiliation?
Can a judicial candidate or their campaign treasurer accept contributions which the candidate knows were solicited and collected while they were a partisan elected official and were returned and then re-donated to the judicial campaign?
Can a judicial candidate or their campaign treasurer accept contributions from the judicial candidate’s former political party when the judicial candidate knows the funds were collected and solicited by the candidate while they were a member of that political party and then turned over to that party to be re-donated to the judicial campaign?
The Code of Judicial Conduct defines a candidate as “a person seeking election to judicial office. A person becomes a candidate for judicial office as soon as he or she makes a public announcement of candidacy, declares or files as a candidate with the election authority, or authorizes solicitation or acceptance of contributions or support.” (Terminology Section of the Code of Judicial Conduct.) The Code of Judicial Conduct governs the conduct of a candidate for judicial office once that person meets the definition of a candidate under the Code. Until that time, the conduct of a potential candidate for judicial office is governed by RCW chap. 42.17 which addresses campaign finance and disclosure. RCW 42.17.095 specifically addresses the disposal of surplus campaign funds.
A candidate for judicial office may use funds from any source permitted by RCW 42.17. Solicitation for funds or for a re-donation of funds may not come from the judicial candidate. These solicitations must be handled by the campaign committee. If a judicial candidate personally receives an unsolicited campaign contribution it should be delivered promptly to an appropriate campaign official.
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