Former Central Washington Judge, Business Owner Fined For Violating Campaign Finance Laws
In October 2014, thousands of Grant County voters received a mail flyer attacking then-candidate prosecutor Garth Dano. The mailer identified a group called “Grant County Concerned Voters” as the sponsor. But no group with that name ever registered with state elections officials.
That set off alarm bells in the state Attorney General’s Office.
Investigators found out former Grant County Superior Court Judge Jerry Moberg and Moses Lake business owner Ken Greene had financed the mailers but concealed it from state officials overseeing campaign finance.
By law, political groups funding campaign activities such as advertisements must register with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), which tracks and regulates financial contributions to all candidates, campaigns and lobbyists, and makes that data publicly available.
In the ensuing three-year court battle, Moberg’s lawyers argued it was Greene who financed the mailers. Moberg had only lent him nearly $4,000.
“The judge didn’t buy that,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, adding that for years voters have demanded financial transparency in local and state elections.
“Look, there’s enough dark money out there in politics as it is,” Ferguson said. “But the people in our state said, ‘look if you’re going to get involved and do a mailing, more power to you, but the people have a right to know who you are and how much money you’re spending on that.’”
Additionally, Moberg and Greene lied under oath to state investigators looking into the case, according to Ferguson, “and that’s really not okay,” he said.
In a press release, Moberg’s attorney, Lori W. Hurl, said that her client did not intentionally violate any laws by lending Greene money for the mailer. She said that even the PDC’s investigator, Phil Stuzman, acknowledged Moberg’s account was “technically accurate,” she said.
“The Attorney General’s statement that Mr. Moberg lied is contrary to the PDC investigator’s admission, in which he acknowledges that Mr. Moberg was telling the truth and that his question was answered in a way that was technically accurate. There was also no determination by the court that Mr. Moberg intentionally violated the law – and we deny that he ever did so.”
The press release characterized the $250,000 fine as an excessive settlement that Moberg agreed to pay instead of proceeding with the trial further because Greene has stage four lung cancer and only a few months to live.
“Spending his days in trial instead of receiving much-needed cancer treatment was not an option,” Hurl said in the statement.
“This is not simply a settlement,” Ferguson said, noting the Thurston County judge overseeing the case ruled in January that Mr. Moberg violated the law and released a judgment summary on March 6.
“I understand [Moberg] needs to say what he needs to say, but no one is buying it,” Ferguson said. “That’s why he’s writing a check for more than $200,000 to resolve this case that should have been a small one.”
In 1993, Moberg received a formal admonishment from the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for teaching a paid class at Central Washington University while serving as a Grant County Superior Court judge.
With the court case behind her client, Hurl said “Mr. Moberg will continue to work hard to practice law with the honesty and integrity that has defined his career to date.”
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