Culp raised $208K since Oct. 27

Culp paid himself $48K, Gergen $20K in consulting fees

Loren Culp’s failed campaign for governor has raised more than $208,000 since Oct. 27, paid Culp himself more than $48,000 and sent $20,000 to consultant Christopher Gergen, according to the campaign’s latest filing with the Public Disclosure Commission.

Gergen on Thursday also announced in a Facebook Live that it was going to court to challenge the results of the election in several counties. The statewide results were certified last week by Secretary of State Kim Wyman. For details about court filing, check out Jim Brunner’s piece in The Seattle Times. Salient paragraph:

Stephen Pidgeon, the Everett attorney who filed the complaint on Culp’s behalf, is a far-right conspiracy theorist who previously spread discredited “birther” conspiracies about President Barack Obama and claimed Obama was a secret Muslim who wanted to impose an Islamic caliphate in the United States.

Culp, who emerged from a weak Republican field in the August primary, lost the election to incumbent Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee by more than half a million votes. But Culp has refused to concede, and he and Gergen have essentially turned the campaign into a money-making exercise, raising cash from supporters with vague and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Most of the money reported on Thursday was raised in the days immediately before the election, but nearly 600 people reached into their wallets between Election Day and Nov. 30, giving more than $55,000.

The campaign’s filing on Thursday was supposed to cover the period from Oct. 27 through Nov. 30, but Culp apparently claimed lost wages and vehicle mileage reimbursement for a much longer period.

Culp made $5,970 per month, or $71,636 annually, as the one-man police department of Republic, according to public records. So the campaign apparently reimbursed him for roughly six months of lost pay at once, after the election.

The current federal reimbursement rate for mileage, per the Internal Revenue Service, is 57.5 cents per mile, so Culp was apparently claiming more than 26,000 miles driven. In earlier disclosures, the campaign reported more than $2,500 in fuel costs for Culp over many months. In fact, he fueled up to the tune of $60 on the campaign’s dime on Election Day, according to Thursday’s disclosure. Typically, you get reimbursed for fuel or mileage, but not both.

Lost wages, mileage and consultant fees are all normally legal expenses for a campaign. But Gergen and Culp’s strategy of raising money by pretending they didn’t lose is apparently borrowed from President Donald Trump.

Gergen was paid $20,000 in consulting fees on Oct. 30. He had previously been paid more than 10 percent of the $3.1 million the campaign raised before the election.

Gergen, who announced on his Facebook page shortly after the election that he had moved to Las Vegas, has continued to exhort Culp’s followers online since then.

The campaign’s spending throughout the cycle has been unusual and in places opaquely disclosed, as The Observer has reported. For example, a company called Salience Data was paid $410,000 between the primary and the general election for “data consulting.” Salience Data, apparently based in Marysville, had no prior history as a campaign vendor in the PDC’s database. The company is controlled by Anton Stetner, a Marysville real estate agent, and Barry Hurd, who bills himself as a “digital accelerator.”

According to Culp campaign’s most recent disclosure, Gergen, Hurd, Stetner, and Gergen’s wife dined at 13 Coins in downtown Seattle on Nov. 6. The tab was $123.47. Culp, apparently, was not with them. A day later, Gergen was in Las Vegas.

As of Nov. 30, the last date covered by the current disclosure, the campaign still had $101,986.05 in the bank. Its next disclosure is due Jan. 11.

Thanks for your attention, The Washington Observer is an independent newsletter on politics, government, and the influence thereof in Washington State. If you’re not already a subscriber, please join us. It’s free — for now.