Lessons from My Five Years on the Public Disclosure Commission


As I close my five-year term as a commissioner on the Public Disclosure Commission, I dutifully sat down at my computer, logged into the PDC website, and filled out my F-1, the personal financial affairs statement.  

I’ve been filling out campaign spending and contribution disclosure reports for five decades: 13 campaigns for five different offices and all the F-1s that went with them.  Paper-based reports, on-line character-based reports, the early GUI-based reports, and now our “Turbo-Tax” versions.  Much progress from a filer’s perspective, certainly, but great to be done!   

As I wrapped up my filing, I sent a text off to one of my colleagues at the PDC and said, “I’m done!  No more F-1s for me.”  My elation was short lived.  The return text, internet seconds later: “No.  You’re still on the commission so you’ll have to file for 2024 in 2025, too!”  Ah, well.  

Over the last five years, I’ve watched the agency continue making great strides in transparency for campaign finance through upgrades to online filing, expanded training and outreach capabilities, and clear strategic planning.

But as I get ready to step aside at the close of my term, and realized I had another F-1 to file, I reflected on that part of the Commission’s work dating back to its foundation more than 50 years ago – the personal financial affairs statement, or F-1 report. 

Elected and state-level appointed officials and candidates for election in Washington must annually report their income, financial assets, real estate owned in Washington, and their business interests. When compared to flashier campaign-spending and contribution reports, the F-1 may seem like a bit of an underdog, but here at the PDC, we see it as the backbone of what we do. Let me tell you why.

One: The purpose of the personal financial affairs statement is to reveal an official’s possible conflicts of interest – which is at its most basic, the point of all campaign finance-disclosure laws. For example, picture a city government. One city council member is a part owner in a construction company the city contracts with for a major project. That council member’s F-1 form, published on the PDC’s website, would reveal that conflict of interest. 

While some may feel that disclosing the value of their real estate, investments, and salary is an unnecessarily invasive part of holding public office, this annual process serves the public interest and provides a crucial part of our system of checks and balances in Washington. It’s worth noting that it was  approved by 72 percent of Washington voters way back in 1972.

Two: The F-1 reveals a candidate’s personal financial interests – literally. Figuratively, it’s your first chance to show your constituents your commitment to transparency in government. 

Not all take that opportunity. Each year, a few hundred candidates and sitting officials file their F-1s late, or don’t file them at all. In many cases, it’s an honest mistake — a forgotten calendar entry, or a first-time candidate unaware of the rules. Many of those “offenders” work with the PDC staff to bring their filings up to date as quickly as possible. 

But a small number of candidates and officials repeatedly fail to file these reports. Any report filed late is a detriment to our public disclosure process and harms the public’s right to know, but an official refusing to file these forms on principle is a particularly egregious violation of state law.  

We take these violations seriously, fining repeat offenders and recently taking an egregious scofflaw to court to encourage disclosure. But, more importantly, what does that person’s refusal tell the people you seek to serve? 

Three, it’s non-partisan. Burned out with the political grind? We’ve got good news. Democrat, Republican, Independent, or no-party affiliation — the F-1 is the same for everyone. 

Four, we’ve made it considerably easier for everyone to file in recent years. Once on paper, now all F-1 forms are filed online, making it more convenient for the filer and the general public, who have real-time access to the transparency they demand. 

All this is a timely reminder – annual F-1 reports for elected and appointed officials are due April 15, and candidates running for election in 2024 owe an F-1 for the previous 12 months within two weeks of beginning their campaign. Voters demand disclosure, so do what you’ve got to do to remember your F-1 obligations. 

Fred Jarrett
Fred Jarrett
Currently enjoying retirement after of public service and a long career, Fred’s been an active participant our region’s political life for over five decades. Most recently, Fred lead the executive branch of King County government, the King County Executive Leadership Team and the Executive’s Best Run Government Initiative. Previously a state senator, he served four terms in the state House of Representatives, after stints as Mercer Island Mayor and as a city council and school board member. Mr. Jarrett has also had a 35-year career at The Boeing Company.


  1. Fred: when is the PDC going to start getting tough on folks who fail to file timely C-3 and C-4 reports?

    Sure, F-1s are important, but far more people are interested in seeing where candidates get money from and how that money is spent. That is the overarching reason for why the PDC was created by citizen initiative in 1972.

    The agency has done a great job enforcing the F-1 requirement, but this prioritization has come at the expense of more important requirements.

    Take for example the agency’s recent response to a complaint filed against Renton City Councilman Ed Prince who successful won re-election in 2023. He failed to timely file his 7-day pre-election C4 report, although he did eventually file it (22 days late and 15 days AFTER the election was concluded). The late report disclosed $16,126 in campaign expenditures including expenditures for political advertising and consulting services.

    What was the PDC’s response? $150 penalty. Do you think this is an adequate penalty? Who is going to be deterred by such a small penalty?


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