City Council candidate Tim Burgess’ campaign late yesterday filed a report showing they plan to pay nearly $30,000 for radio ads on local stations: KIRO, KWJZ, and KIXI among them. The due date for reporting expenses incurred in August was midnight Sept. 10— and the campaign’s initial report didn't include the radio ads obligation. The spots, which began airing last week, while produced in late August, weren’t paid for until September.
Burgess' treasurer Jason Bennett says this is why the radio ads weren’t noted on the first form, filed Monday. “It’s this grey area. Radio stations don’t consider the order placed until they get payment.” Still, Bennett says they amended the August report to show they are on the up and up.
But Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission Executive Director Wayne Barnett says the city’s definition of an expenditure includes a contract, promise, or agreement. “We’ve always interpreted that pretty broad,” he says. “Our viewpoint is if you’ve got an agreement to spend money, you’ve got an expenditure.”
Burgess is challenging first-term incumbent David Della. Della’s consultant Michael Grossman, who is quick to point out that Burgess himself is a former Ethics Commission chairman, says it's all about intent. “There was an intent there clearly to run an ad and they choose not to at first disclose it, until they were caught,” he says.
Barnett declined to say whether the Ethics Commission plans to investigate the matter. He can’t due to office policy that bars him from talking about proceedings before they’re made public. But he would say this about the law in general: “It requires obligations be reported timely. If there’s a failure to report it can certainly lead to penalties.”