Washington Takes Down Financial Disclosures, Claiming Concerns Over Foreign Hackers - 2020-06-24
On Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, the commissioners of Washington state's Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) received an urgent email. "This is not something I take lightly, but it appears we have a serious problem on our hands," read the email from Democratic state Sen. Sam Hunt, the chairman of the State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee, which has jurisdiction over the commission. "I am requesting that the PDC put a hold on posting legislative and other F-1s online."
F-1s are the financial affairs statements that the state's elected officials, executive officers, and candidates for office are required to file and are made available to the public for review. The filings, which include information on officials' financial assets, business affiliations, and other details, are meant to inform the public about possible conflicts of interest. They do not include account details, Social Security numbers, or other highly sensitive information, and the value of assets are disclosed using codes that indicate broad ranges.
In the email, which Sludge reviewed, Hunt said that the PDC was "being assaulted by international data thieves from China, Russia, and Germany" who wanted access to use the information on the forms for "who knows what purpose." He asked the agency to immediately take down the data, adding that they could not wait for legislative action because "the crisis is now."