A Lynden Republican chose not to accept donations at his campaign kickoff on March 22, after a complaint was filed accusing him of soliciting funds before the end of the state legislative session.
The complaint, signed March 12 by Mike Estes, chairman of the Whatcom County Democrats, did not result in a fine or other discipline for Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden.
Buys announced his campaign kickoff through the mail and on social media on March 6, one week before the 2014 session ended.
Estes' complaint cited a state law that says a legislator may not "solicit or accept contributions" while the Legislature is in session - the so-called "freeze period."
"This isn't a gray area," Estes said in a press release. "State elected officials and their staff cannot send invitations to a campaign kickoff during session."
Buys is running for his third term as a representative of Washington's 42nd Legislative District, which is all of Whatcom County except south Bellingham and the southwest county.
Buys said in an interview Monday, March 31, that he initially intended to raise funds at the event but decided against it after hearing from the state Public Disclosure Commission that it wouldn't be legal.
Buys said he consulted with two attorneys - one who worked for the House Republican caucus and a nonpartisan lawyer who worked for the House - and they both said it was OK to put out a "save the date" notice for a fundraiser during the session, as long as fundraising wasn't mentioned in the invitation.
"It was unfortunate. We did due diligence by asking counsel before," Buys said. "The PDC comes out with kind of a new interpretation of that (law). It is a new tack from what they've normally allowed."
PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said the commission has had the same position on campaign invitations during session for 15 years at least.
"Any events that are advertised during the freeze period, that policy stands," Anderson said.
Buys said he won't reschedule a campaign kickoff, and the prohibition against raising funds on March 22 didn't set back his campaign.
"There were people who came specifically because they wanted to write checks, and I said, 'Sorry, you can't,'" Buys said. "It's a long campaign season, so it's not a huge issue. I'm not worried about it."
In his last election, in 2012, Buys defeated challenger Matt Krogh by 7 percentage points. Buys unseated Democrat Kelli Linville in 2010 in a vote that required a recount.
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