Inside the lobby at the Google office in Kirkland. Photo courtesy of Runner1928

Inside the lobby at the Google office in Kirkland. Photo courtesy of Runner1928

Google, Facebook to pay more than $400,000 to Washington state in campaign finance cases

Both are in the top 10 largest campaign finance recoveries in Washington state history.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced on Dec. 18 that Google will pay $217,000 and Facebook will pay $238,000 over allegations the companies failed to maintain legally required information for Washington state political advertising placed on their online platforms since 2013.

Under the two judgments signed by the court, each company is legally required to pay the state $200,000, plus attorney’s costs and fees ($17,000 for Google and $38,500 for Facebook), according to a press release from the attorney general’s office.

“Whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation, Washington’s political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone,” Ferguson stated in the release.

On June 4, Ferguson filed two campaign finance lawsuits in King County Superior Court asserting Google and Facebook failed to maintain information for political advertising required by Washington state campaign finance laws.

These requirements have been in place since 1972, when Washington voters approved the original initiative on campaign finance transparency. Through the act, voters also approved creation of the state’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).

State campaign finance laws require political advertisers to maintain information about those who purchase advertising and make that information available to the public. According to the lawsuits, Google and Facebook did not obtain, maintain or provide any of the legally required information associated with Washington state campaigns.

“We’re pleased that the matter with the attorney general’s office is resolved. We’re working hard to protect election integrity and prevent foreign interference,” Facebook spokesperson Beth Gautier wrote in an emailed statement. “We believe all ads should be transparent on Facebook and aren’t waiting for legislation to authorize political advertisers and house these ads in a public archive. Given the recent Washington State Public Disclosure Commission ruling, we’re looking at how best to address its new disclosure requirements.”

The Reporter also reached out to Google for comment, but had not heard back as of press time. Google is headquartered in Mountain View, California, but has offices in Seattle and a campus in Kirkland. Facebook is based in Menlo Park, California, but has offices in Seattle and is planning a new research facility in Redmond.

According to documents filed with the PDC, in the last decade, Washington candidates and political committees reported about $5.1 million in payments to Facebook and $1.5 million to Google related to advertising.

Washington state law provides the public the right to visit a commercial advertiser during normal business hours and see who is paying for the political advertising they run, and how much the campaign committee is spending.

Facebook and Google did not provide this access. For example, Eli Sanders, the associate editor of The Stranger, hand-delivered a letter to both companies’ Seattle offices requesting information on 2017 municipal election political advertising. Neither company provided him any of the legally required information.

Ferguson’s recoveries in these two cases will go into the state Public Disclosure Transparency Account as required by law. The transparency account was created as part of campaign finance legislation in the 2018 legislative session.

In response to Ferguson’s lawsuit, Google stopped taking purchases of political ads in Washington state and local elections. Any political advertiser, including Google and Facebook, who does not provide the legally required information is subject to complaints and regulations through the PDC.

Senior assistant attorney general Linda Dalton and assistant attorney general Todd Sipe handled the cases.

A summary of Attorney General’s Office campaign finance case resolutions is available at www.atg.wa.gov/enforcement-campaign-finance-laws.

More in Business

Eastside business booms with summer options

Locals can visit numerous new developments this summer, all within Eastside communities.

From left: Craig Olson, Joan Schrammeck, and Paula Paula DelGiudice with a solar panel. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo
Little Bit in Redmond goes solar

Northwest Electric and Solar of Kenmore donates a solar energy system to the therapeutic riding center.

Nir Pechuk won second prize at the national competition. Photo courtesy of LWSD
Redmond Middle School student advances to national entrepreneur competition

Nir Pechuk won second prize at the national competition.

Microsoft reveals project criteria for $500 million affordable housing funds

The company will soon accept applications for projects related to affordable housing on the Eastside.

Vertex Arena offers a turfed and netted 3,000 square feet battlefield for bow and arrow tag, nerf tag, and field dodgeball. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo
Vertex Arena comes to Redmond

The new business hopes to connect people through the power of play.

Woodblock owners open spiritual successor to Frankie’s Pizza in downtown Redmond

Spark Pizza aims to preserve the community-based restaurant hub as development floods the Eastside.

Kristina Hudson currently serves as OneRedmond’s Executive Director, the position replacing a former CEO. Kristina Hudson / courtesy photo
OneRedmond solidifies executive director, replacing CEO position

Kristina Hudson, former vice president of business expansion, will now lead the nonprofit.

‘Busy’ housing market enters pre-summer phase

As the pre-summer market begins, standing out from the crowd is crucial for buyers.

The data visualized here was compiled from Apartment List’s monthly rent reports. See an interactive chart below. Kailan Manandic / data illustration
Eastside rental market could balance out with the region

Eastside rent medians increased by 2.8 in the past year, a decrease in growth from previous years.

Phillips to step down as CEO of OneRedmond

He came to Redmond from Vancouver, Washington with more than 20 years of experience in economic development.

Nintex acquires EnableSoft in company acquisition

Bellevue-based company is a world leader in workflow automation industry.

Paige Bisbee, of Bellevue is a paid employee at Davis Wright Tremaine in Bellevue. As part of the law firm’s inclusive program, Bisbee distributes snacks and office supplies to her co-workers. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo.
People with disabilities find purpose through new employment opportunities

Paige Bisbee of Bellevue finds employment at Davis Wright Tremaine