Library fined for illegally sponsoring District 7 congressional debate

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-4-22-16-pmThe Seattle Public Library has agreed to pay a $450 fine after the city’s ethics board found it violated election law by sponsoring a congressional election debate in July without inviting all the candidates on the ballot.

Republican candidate for the 7th Congressional District Craig Keller filed the complaint after he and five other eligible candidates were excluded from the July 14th debate at the Central Library. The debate featured Pramila Jayapal, Brady Walkinshaw, and Joe McDermott.

Leading up to the debate, SPL was listed as a cosponsor and participated in the event’s planning, but did not have a say in what candidates would be invited. On the day of the event, library staff say they realized SPL’s sponsorship was in violation of city election laws. In an attempt to skirt a violation, SPL entered in a lease for the auditorium space with the event’s other cosponsor, Seattle City Club.

While the library and other city facilities may be used for election events like debates, they must include all candidates so as not to give one an advantage. Although the SPL tried to correct the violation by signing a lease for the event, commissioners found that enough time had passed with SPL as a cosponsor to constitute a violation. The SPL website also listed the names of three candidate for a week leading up to the debate.

Jayapal and Walkinshaw are now facing off to represent Capitol Hill in Congress in the November 8th election after making it through the top-two primary in August. Earlier this year, longtime congressman Rep. Jim McDermott announced he would not run for reelection.

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