MOSES LAKE – Chris Voigt is the target of a political campaign accusation.
The Moses Lake resident and Washington State Potato Commission executive director is accused of using commission resources to support U.S. congressional candidate Dan Newhouse.
It has led to an investigation by the Washington State Executive Ethics Board to determine if Voigt’s actions on behalf of Newhouse’s campaign used state tax funded resources.
Voigt allegedly sent e-mails about Newhouse’s campaign from his potato commission e-mail account and used a commission vehicle to deliver campaign signs.
Voigt denied misusing state resources.
“All potato commission assets are owned by the potato growers, not the state,” Voight wrote in a statement. “Our building, our computers, our pens and pencils, any intellectual property (are) all owned by the potato growers, not the State of Washington.”
David Killeen, the board’s investigator, said he hasn’t started investigating the issues. When the investigation is complete, Voigt will have a chance to respond to the allegations. The information will be presented to the board, which will determine if a violation occurred.
If the board determines the law was violated, Voigt can either agree to a settlement or the issue will go to a hearing.
The punishment could range from a letter of instruction to a $5,000 fine per violation, Killeen said.
Killeen said the identity of the person who made the allegations will remain confidential. The details of the investigation will be released when it’s presented to the board.
Clint Didier’s campaign released a series of letters Voigt allegedly sent to an e-mail list using the e-mail address email@example.com. Campaign manager Larry Stickney said they received the e-mails from people who received them. The names of the recipients were blacked out.
It’s unknown whether the e-mails released by the Didier campaign are the same ones being investigated by the state ethics board. The e-mails were sent between June 7 and June 9.
The e-mails appear to tell people about a campaign event with Newhouse, and talk about delivering signs to a supporter’s home.
Stickney said the Didier campaign believes the proper recourse is a complaint to the federal elections commission about someone using public funds to support the Newhouse campaign.
“We’re consulting with an attorney about it,” he said. “Nationwide, these type of groups have become more politically active … We believe they are out of line.”
Voigt stated he wasn’t going to speak ill of Didier, but he disputed the claims made by the campaign.
He pointed out the commission uses a commercial web and e-mail service. He noted the commission e-mail address ends with “dot com” and not “dot gov.”
“The potato growers of Washington own the domain name ‘potatoes.com.’ This is not state property, and any e-mails were sent during my personal time,” he stated.
It is a similar case with the three vehicles owned by the commission, Voigt stated.
“A deduction is taken out of my paycheck every pay period for some personal use of the Potato Commission vehicle,” he stated.
Newhouse’s Campaign Manager Tim Kovis replied to the accusations stating one of Newhouse’s opponents was “flinging mud everywhere and praying some of it sticks.”
“Chris is a volunteer and the campaign had an understanding with him that he would support Dan with his own time and resources,” Kovis said.