Campaign expenditures by incumbent 19th District Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, totaling $65,000 to a printing company owned by his former aide JD Rossetti has Blake’s Republican opponent Joel McEntire accusing the 16-year legislator of improper use of campaign funds.
“First, it was $25,000 in campaign funds that my opponent gave to his friend. Now, the estimates are $65,000,” said McEntire in a statement. “I’m running for the Legislature to fight against this sort of cronyism.”
Blake said he chose Rossetti’s Minuteman Press location in North Vancouver because of the two’s familiarity with each other, and that the higher-than-usual expenditures for campaign materials are in response to the strong Republican showing within the district in the 2016 general election.
“It was an efficiency thing,” said Blake. “JD had worked as campaign manager for me and is familiar with creating these ads and getting them to the newspapers, and I’m someone who just strongly believes in the importance of community newspapers, so I do ads for the primary and general elections.”
According to Public Disclosure Commission communications director Kim Bradford, “It would be of interest to the PDC if a campaign did not receive the goods or services that it reported purchasing or if a campaign paid more than fair market value for those goods or services.”
McEntire said he was looking into options for bringing the expenditures to the PDC’s attention. Bradford said there are two ways the PDC will open an investigation: through a complaint filed with the commission or by staff referral. The latter is less common as the commission has some 400 open cases and a very small staff to deal with them all, said Bradford.
As for whether Blake got his money’s worth from Rossetti, Blake said, “I saw the ads, I saw the mailers.” McEntire said he’s not satisfied with that.
Blake calls the accusations “a dog bites man” situation, a non-story used by his opponent to distract from the issues at hand.
The timing of the first payment drew the attention of a reporter at the Chinook Observer newspaper in Long Beach earlier this month. In July, the Minuteman location was still under construction and didn’t appear to be operational when the first payment was made, according to the Oct. 19 article.
“How can you be fighting for the family-wage job projects in Longview, the commercial fishermen in Ilwaco and the oyster farmers in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties while you’re channeling campaign money to your buddy’s start-up?” asked McEntire.