UPDATE: Safe Access Alliance President Kurt Boehl called this morning to clarify how much money the organization raised and why reports to the PDC have not been made yet. His input has been added to this post.
It's been an interesting week in the fight against Washington's Initiative 502 - sponsored by New Approach Washington and designed to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in our state. Perhaps that's to be expected when the bulk of the vigor against the initiative is coming from pot proponents. Maybe it's a sign we've come a long way if the prominent argument regarding Washington's pot legalization initiative is between two sides that, at least ostensibly, support medical marijuana patients. Or maybe it's simply yet another example of what a strange and convoluted argument it's become.
As was documented far and wide thanks to the story's dramatic details and headline punch, Safe Access Alliance, an... ahem ... "Washington non-profit organization, recently enacted to serve as a trade organization on behalf of medical cannabis access points and patients," according to a statement distributed to the media yesterday by president Kurt Boehl, publicly fired its media director, Philip Dawdy, during a disastrous inaugural press conference Tuesday. (Ed. Note: Dawdy once worked for Seattle Weekly.)
Wednesday, Boehl announced Safe Access Alliance was dusted.
"As a result of recent events, Safe Access Alliance feels that its primary goal, to serve as a trade organization, has been compromised, and for that reason, the organization is dissolving," stated Boehl via press release. "In the future, we hope to organize again, if there is an interest and need in the medical cannabis community."
Speaking with Seattle Weekly Tuesday, Boehl declined to comment on the specifics of Dawdy's ousting. The press release from Wednesday, while ambiguous, took a conciliatory tone.
The press release notes:
... we regret to have publicly parted ways with our spokesperson, Philip Dawdy. Philip is a dedicated and longtime advocate of the medical cannabis community and we wish him well in his future endeavors.
As The Daily Weekly's coverage of Dawdy's bizarre firing details, Steve Sarich's official No on I-502 PAC showed up at the press conference to voice concern over Safe Access Alliance's money raising efforts. Before his ouster, Dawdy told Seattle Weekly Safe Access Alliance had raised $9,050 so far, and spent "probably about $7,000 to $7,500 of that." Despite the figures Dawdy provided, Safe Access Alliance hasn't reported anything to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission - an issue Dawdy attributed to a password issue with the PDC's website.
Of course, reporting to the PDC is for political committees. As Boehl has attempted to make clear, Safe Access Alliance is ... er ... was a non-profit "trade organization."
The outspoken Sarich says his beef with Safe Access Alliance comes down to ethics (in addition, presumably, to the whole money thing).
"This was not something we could simply ignore, nor could we ethically allow it to continue," Sarich responded to yesterday's story. "Every dime we collect is listed on the PDC website, along with every dime we spend. Apparently, there is no such accounting of the campaign money taken in by Safe Access Alliance."
Tuesday Boehl told Seattle Weekly he wasn't sure how much money had been raised for Safe Access Alliance under false pretenses, but was firm in his contention that any money that did come in because of confusion or under dubious circumstances will be forwarded to Sarich and the No on I-502 camp. Sarich has referenced a total in the $1,000 to $1,500 range.
"I don't know if that's even what happened. But if people did feel like they were giving money to the No on I-502 campaign and, in fact, they gave money to Safe Access Alliance, we have no intent of keeping that money and we will more than gladly give it to No on I-502," Boehl said Tuesday, a few hours after Dawdy's firing.
Also on Tuesday, Boehl told Seattle Weekly that an internal audit was needed to determine how much - if any - money had been mistakenly contributed to Safe Access Alliance.
Thursday morning, Boehl called to clarify the situation. He says after reviewing the donations Safe Access Alliance took in, the figure Dawdy provided earlier, $9,050, is accurate. He also says that after reviewing the donations, "There were no checks made to No on I-502."
This being the case, Boehl says no money will be forwarded to the No on I-502 camp.
"There was no money received by Safe Access Alliance that was earmarked or should have been given to No on I-502. We didn't obtain any money under false pretenses, says Boehl.
Boehl also says that despite the confusion created when Safe Access Alliance essentially morphed, at least momentarily, from an intended trade organization to one publicly fighting I-502, he plans to get the situation squared away with the PDC by the end of the day.
"The reason the PDC filings haven't been done is, essentially, Philip [Dawdy] was going to do the filings. I think he said there was a password issue," says Boehl. "We are contacting the PDC today to take care of the filing this afternoon. So, all of that paperwork will be filed.
"The implication that we were a trade organization so we wouldn't have to do a PDC filing is absolutely false. That's not our intent at all. If we have to disclose money that came in, that's what we're going to do. Everything was above board here."
As I noted above, trade organizations don't have to file with the PDC. But given the recent confusion regarding Safe Access Alliance's status, Boehl makes it clear his group never meant to deceive anyone.
"[A trade organization is] initially what this organization was intended to be. It got a little sidetracked," says Boehl.
Find the complete press release announcing Safe Access Alliance's decision to dissolve on the following page ...