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Bob Ferguson's campaign funds under fire from rival Democrat in governor's race

caption: Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson addressed the multi-Bob controversy at a news conference on May 13, 2024, where he called on the other Ferguson candidates for governor to withdraw, and suggested the situation could prompt legal consequences.
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Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson addressed the multi-Bob controversy at a news conference on May 13, 2024, where he called on the other Ferguson candidates for governor to withdraw, and suggested the situation could prompt legal consequences.
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Attorney General Bob Ferguson has raised a lot of money over the years — but how he uses it in his run for governor is drawing complaints from a Democrat running against him.

Last year, regulators told Ferguson that millions of dollars in surplus campaign funds he raised years ago might break legal limits if they were used in his run for governor this year.

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In April, he donated $750,000 of that surplus money to the Washington State Democratic Party in return for promoting his campaign for governor and other Democratic campaigns, putting Ferguson's name in get-out-the-vote literature, among other things.

Democratic state Sen. Mark Mullet took issue with this donation, filing a complaint with the State Public Disclosure Commission on Friday.

"It's fine for people to donate money to the state Democratic Party out of their surplus account," Mullet said, "but you can't do it in return, in quid pro quo, for something else."

Mullet is Ferguson’s closest Democratic rival in the August gubernatorial primary election — though Mullet is struggling to keep up.

Recent polls have Mullet far behind Ferguson. He's also trailing the leading Republican, former Congressman Dave Reichert. The Seattle Times reported two weeks ago that Mullet only had about $50,000 left that he can spend before the Aug. 6 primary, although he's still raising money.

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Ferguson’s campaign slammed the complaint Mullet filed last week, calling it a "desperate attack from a dying campaign" in a statement to KUOW.

"Mark Mullet's campaign is broke and polling in single digits," Bayley Burgess, campaign manager for Ferguson, said Monday.

Stephen Reed, a spokesperson for the state Democratic Party, defended Ferguson's donation. Campaigns can give money to the state party only through their surplus accounts, and while the money Ferguson gave is for a "buy-in," it's for a coordinated campaign that will focus on "getting out the vote for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot across the state," Reed said.

The deputy executive director of the Public Disclosure Commission, Kim Bradford, said they haven't yet finished their assessment of Mullet's complaint. Once they do, they'll either open a case or return the complaint.

Two weeks ago, Mullet also filed complaints against Ferguson for asking Secretary of State Steve Hobbs to move his name up on the August ballot, in response to a ploy from a conservative activist who was recruiting men named Robert Ferguson to file as Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

RELATED: Will the real Bob Ferguson please stand up? Name doppelgangers rattle Washington governor’s race

"This would be, I think, unethical behavior for any lawyer in our state," Mullet said. "But it's really bad when it's your attorney general, who holds the highest legal office in the state."

Mullet argued Ferguson abused his power and violated the Washington State Bar Association's rules by calling Hobbs on May 13 and pushing him to rearrange the ballot so he’d be listed immediately before the other Bob Fergusons. Both of those candidates dropped out when Ferguson called on authorities to prosecute them for breaking a law against intentionally confusing voters.

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