State of Washington appeals the CR 12(b)(6) dismissal of its
regulatory enforcement action against the Evergreen Freedom
Foundation (the Foundation). The State filed suit after
learning from a citizen complaint that the Foundation had
provided pro bono legal services in support of local
initiatives in Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton without reporting
the value of those services to the Public Disclosure
42.17A.255(2) requires a person to report to the PDC certain
"independent expenditures, " defined in RCW
42.17A.255(1) to include any expenditure made in support of a
"ballot proposition." RCW 42.17A.005(4) defines
"ballot proposition" to include any initiative
proposed to be submitted to any state or local voting
constituency "from and after the time when the
proposition has been initially filed with the appropriate
election officer of that constituency before its circulation
language of RCW 42.17A.005(4) tracks the procedure for
statewide initiatives, in which a proposition must be filed
with election officials before any signatures are solicited.
However, in many local jurisdictions - including in Sequim,
Chelan, and Shelton - the initiative procedure requires that
the appropriate number of signatures be obtained before a
proposition is filed with election officials.
the Foundation's pro bono legal services were provided
after the Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton initiatives had been
filed with local election officials but also after the
initiatives had been circulated for signatures. The State
argues that these initiatives were "ballot
propositions" under the RCW 42.17A.005(4) definition.
The Foundation argues, and the trial court ruled, that the
initiatives were not "ballot propositions" when the
legal services were provided because the initiatives already
had been circulated for signatures. Under the
Foundation's argument and the trial court's ruling, a
local initiative filed in a jurisdiction where signatures
must be obtained before filing could never constitute a
that (1) under the only reasonable interpretation of RCW
42.17A.005(4), the Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton initiatives
qualified as "ballot propositions" because the
Foundation provided services after the initiatives had been
filed with the local election officials, regardless of the
additional qualification that the proposition had to be filed
before its circulation for signatures; and (2) the disclosure
requirement for independent expenditures under RCW
42.17A.255(2) does not violate the Foundation's First
Amendment right to free speech. In the unpublished portion of
this opinion, we reject the Foundation's additional
we reverse the trial court's dismissal of the State's
regulatory enforcement action regarding the Sequim, Chelan,
and Shelton initiatives, and we remand for further
2014, groups of citizens in Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton
prepared initiatives concerning collective bargaining between
municipalities and the bargaining representatives of their
employees, circulated the initiatives, and obtained
signatures in their communities. The proponents then
submitted the initiatives and signatures to all three cities.
The Sequim city council failed to take any action. The Chelan
city council directed its city attorney to file an action to
determine the initiative's validity. The Shelton city
commission declared the initiatives invalid and took no
response, the proponents of each initiative filed a lawsuit
against their respective cities. The lawsuits requested that
the initiatives be placed on the ballot to be voted on by
city residents. In each case, the proponents were represented
by attorney staff members of the Foundation. Apparently,
attorneys representing various labor unions opposed each
lawsuit. All three lawsuits were dismissed and none were
appealed. The State's Lawsuit
October 2015, the State filed a complaint against the
Foundation. The complaint alleged that RCW 42.17A.255
required the Foundation to report to the PDC the legal
services provided by its staff in support of the initiatives.
The State sought the imposition of a civil penalty as well as
temporary and permanent injunctive relief.
Foundation moved to dismiss under CR 12(b)(6) for failure to
state a claim. The trial court granted the Foundation's
motion and dismissed the State's complaint. The court
reasoned that the applicable statutes were ambiguous and
vague as to whether the Foundation was obligated to report
its legal services.
State appeals the trial court's dismissal order.
Standard of Review
Foundation filed its motion to dismiss the State's
complaint under CR 12(b)(6), which provides that a complaint
may be dismissed if it fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. We review a trial court's CR
12(b)(6) order dismissing a claim de novo. J.S. v. Vill.
Voice Media Holdings, LLC, 184 Wn.2d 95, 100, 359 P.3d
714 (2015). We accept as true all facts alleged in the
plaintiffs complaint and all reasonable inferences from those
facts. Id. Dismissal under CR 12(b)(6) is
appropriate if the plaintiff cannot allege any set of facts
that would justify recovery. Id.
Campaign Practices Act Reporting Requirements
1972, Washington citizens passed Initiative 276, which
established the PDC and formed the basis of Washington's
campaign finance laws. Voters Educ. Comm. v. Pub.
Disclosure Comm'n, 161 Wn.2d 470, 479, 166 P.3d 1174
(2007). Initiative 276 is codified in portions of Chapter
42.17A RCW, which is known as the Fair Campaign Practices Act
42.17A.001 sets forth the declaration of policy of the FCPA.
The public policy of the state includes:
(1) That political campaign and lobbying
contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the
public and that secrecy is to be avoided.
(5) That public confidence in government at all
levels is essential and must be promoted by all possible
(10) That the public's right to know of the financing
of political campaigns and lobbying and the financial
affairs of elected officials and candidates far outweighs any
right that these matters remain secret and private.
(11) That, mindful of the right of individuals to privacy and
of the desirability of the efficient administration of
government, full access to information concerning the conduct
of government on every level must be assured as a fundamental
and necessary precondition to the sound governance of a free
RCW 42.17A.001 (emphasis added). In addition, RCW 42.17A.001
states that "[t]he provisions of this chapter shall be
liberally construed to promote complete disclosure of all
information respecting the financing of political campaigns
FCPA requires candidates and political committees to report
to the PDC all contributions received and expenditures made.
RCW 42.17A.235(1). A "political committee" includes
any organization receiving donations or making expenditures
in support of or in opposition to a ballot proposition. RCW
person who violates any provision in chapter 42.17A RCW may
be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10, 000 for
each violation. RCW 42.17A.750(1)(c). In addition, a court
may compel the performance of any reporting requirement. RCW
42.17A.750(1)(h). The attorney general and local prosecuting
authorities "may bring civil actions in the name of the
state for any appropriate civil remedy, including but not
limited to the special remedies provided in RCW
42.17A.750." RCW 42.17A.765(1). The PDC also may refer
certain violations for criminal prosecution. RCW
Statewide and Local Initiative Process
requirements for reporting expenditures under chapter 42.17A
RCW involve the processes for submitting ballot initiatives
at the statewide and local levels. The initiative processes
at each level are established by state law and involve
somewhat different requirements.
state level, chapter 29A.72 RCW governs the process for
submitting initiatives to the voters. A person who desires to
submit a "proposed initiative measure" to the
people must file a copy of the proposed measure with the
secretary of state. RCW 29A.72.010. After review by the
office of the code reviser, the proponent must file the
proposed measure along with a certificate of review with the
secretary of state for assignment of a serial number. RCW
29A.72.020. The attorney general also formulates a ballot
title for the proposed initiative. RCW 29A.72.060.
the proposed initiative has been filed with the secretary of
state and a ballot title has been prepared, the proponent can
prepare petitions for signature. RCW 29A.72.100, .120. The
proponent must obtain a certain number of signatures from
legal voters, after which the petitions are "submitted
to the secretary of state for filing." RCW 29A.72.150.
The secretary of state then verifies the signatures. RCW
29A.72.230. If the petition is sufficient, the secretary of
state places the proposed initiative on the ballot. RCW
local level, RCW 35.17.260 allows ordinances to be initiated
by petition of a city's registered voters filed with the
city commission. But the initiative must receive a certain
number of signatures from registered voters before being
filed. RCW 35.17.260. The city clerk ascertains whether the
petition is signed by a sufficient number of registered
voters. RCW 35.17.280. The commission must decide whether to
pass the proposed ordinance or submit the proposed ordinance
to a vote of the people. RCW 35.17.260(1)-(2).
35.17 RCW applies to cities incorporated under a commission
form of government. See RCW 35.17.010. Although
Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton are noncharter "code
cities" subject to title 35A RCW,  RCW 35A. 11.100
provides that, with a few exceptions, the initiative process
set forth in chapter 35.17 RCW also applies to code
the statutes discussed above, the procedure for submitting
statewide and local proposed initiatives is similar, but the
first two preliminary steps are reversed. For a statewide
initiative, the proponent must file the proposed measure and
then circulate the measure for signatures. For a local
initiative, the proponent must circulate the proposed measure
for signatures and then file the measure.
Reporting of Independent Expenditures
State argues that the trial court erred in dismissing its
complaint for failure to state a claim because the Sequim,
Chelan, and Shelton proposed initiatives qualified as
"ballot propositions" under RCW 42.17A.005(4), and
therefore the Foundation was required to report to the PDC
its independent expenditures in support of the initiatives.
We agree and hold that the local initiatives qualified as
"ballot propositions" once they were filed with the
appropriate election officials.
Statutory Interpretation Principles
interpretation is a matter of law that we review de novo.
Jametsky v. Olsen, 179 Wn.2d 756, 761, 317 P.3d 1003
(2014). The primary goal of statutory interpretation is to
determine and give effect to the legislature's intent.
Id. at 762. To determine legislative intent, we
first look to the plain language of the statute. Id.
We consider the language of the provision in question, the
context of the statute in which the provision is found, and
related statutes. Ass 'n of Wash. Spirits & Wine
Distribs. v. Wash. State Liquor Control Bd, 182 Wn.2d
342, 350, 340 P.3d 849 (2015).
statute defines a term, we must apply the definition
provided. Nelson v. Duvall, 197 Wn.App. 441, 452,
387 P.3d 1158 (2017). To discern the plain meaning of
undefined statutory language, we give words their usual and
ordinary meaning and interpret them in the context of the
statute in which they appear. AllianceOne Receivables
Mgmt., Inc. v. Lewis, 180 Wn.2d 389, 395, 325 P.3d 904
(2014). And "[r]elated statutory provisions must be
harmonized to effectuate a consistent statutory scheme that
maintains the integrity of the respective statute."
Koenig v. City of Des Moines, 158 Wn.2d 173, 184,
142 P.3d 162 (2006).
statute is unambiguous, we apply the statute's plain
meaning as an expression of legislative intent without
considering other sources of such intent. Jametsky,
179 Wn.2d at 762. If the language of the statute is
susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, the
statute is ambiguous. Id. We resolve ambiguity by
considering other indications of legislative intent,
including principles of statutory construction, legislative
history, and relevant case law. Id.
generally assume that the legislature meant precisely what it
said and intended to apply the statute as it was written.
HomeStreet, Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, 166 Wn.2d
444, 452, 210 P.3d 297 (2009). When interpreting a statute,
each word should be given meaning. Id. And when
possible, statutes should be construed so that no clause,
sentence, or word is made superfluous, void, or
insignificant. Id. However, in special cases we can
ignore statutory language that appears to be surplusage when
necessary for a proper understanding of the provision.
Wash. Water Power Co. v. Graybar Elec. Co., 112
Wn.2d 847, 859, 774 P.2d 1199, 779 P.2d 697 (1989); see
also Am. Disc. Corp. v. Shepherd, 160 Wn.2d 93, 103, 156
P.3d 858 (2007).
addition, when construing two statutes, we assume that the
legislature did not intend to create an inconsistency.
Filo Foods, LLC v. City of SeaTac, 183 Wn.2d 770,
793, 357 P.3d 1040 (2015). Whenever possible, we read
statutes together to create a harmonious statutory scheme
that maintains each statute's integrity. Id. at
we can avoid a literal reading of a statute if it leads to
strained, unlikely, or absurd consequences. Columbia
Riverkeeper v. Port of Vancouver USA,188 Wn.2d 421,
443, 395 P.3d 1031 (2017). "We may resist a plain
meaning interpretation that would lead to absurd
results." Univ. of Wash. v. City of Seattle,188 Wn.2d 823, 834, 399 P.3d 519 (2017); see also Chelan
Basin Conservancy v. GBI Holding Co.,188 Wn.2d 692,
705-08, 399 ...