Stefan Sharkansky, the conservative pundit behind Soundpolitics.com and the man who drafted Initiative 1100—one of this year's liquor privatization initiatives—has filed a complaint (.pdf) with the Washington State Executive Ethics Board against the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
The complaint stems from an August 23 panel discussion on I-1100 that Rick Garza, the Deputy Administrative Director of the WSLCB, participated in and Sharkansky attended. During the discussion, held at the Columbia Winery, Sharkansky alleges that Garza used public resources and made "false and/or misleading" statements about the impacts of privatization in an effort to campaign against the liquor initiatives. Sharkansky says that Garza has been making these statements at similar platforms across the state.
Among his complaints, which are numerous, Sharkansky says Garza falsely claimed that the loss of liquor markup (which provides the state and local governments with revenue, and which both liquor initiatives eliminate) would break the bank for the WLCB's licensing and enforcement functions.
In his complaint, Sharkansky claims that Garza said: "One of the things I will tell you about removing the mark-up in both initiatives. That takes away the total funding of the Liquor Board, including licensing and enforcement. So with these initiatives we lose our licensing and enforcement ability."
Sharkansky disputes this. While the WSLCB does rely on mark-up from liquor sales currently, it has an alternative funding stream that the initiatives wouldn't affect. Called the "liquor revolving account," the pot of money that will fund the WSLCB if either initiative passes is funded by wine taxes and liquor licensing fees. WSLCB spokesman Brian Smith acknowledges this last week, "That money is what we would use first for our expenses if we need it—which we don’t right now.”
Sharkansky also alleges Garza misrepresented the liquor consumption rates between states that control liquor sales and those that don't.
Responding to the ethics complaint this morning, Smith said, "During this campaign time there's obviously a lot of heated things going on... We can't take a position [on the initiatives], but people still look to us for information. There's a lot of confusion out there about what they do and what's in them, and we try to provide the facts. [Garza] has given the same general presentation to our employees and to groups around the state that have requested it."
When reached by phone yesterday, Sharkansky said, "I'm [filing this complaint] because it's a pro-consumer way to go. The kind of small-government, fiscal conservative I am, I don't like corporate welfare. Garza has been speaking around the state during normal business hours, working as a state official, and actively campaigning against [these initiatives]. He's campaigning for his job, essentially."