(The Center Square) – Granting Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s request that the maximum penalty be imposed, a judge fined Facebook parent company Meta nearly $25 million for repeatedly and intentionally violating campaign finance disclosure laws.
The penalty issued by King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North Wednesday was for 822 violations of Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, passed by voters in 1972 and updated and amended since then, that calls for the complete disclosure of all information regarding the financing of political campaigns and lobbying.
The law requires sites that host political advertisements to make information – cost, sponsor, and targeting and reach information – about the ads that run on their platforms available for public inspection in a timely manner.
Because the violations were ruled deliberate, the court opted to triple the $10,000 penalty, for a maximum of $30,000 per violation, or a total of $24.6 million.
“I have one word for Facebook’s conduct in this case – arrogance,” Ferguson said in a press release. “It intentionally disregarded Washington’s election transparency laws. But that wasn’t enough. Facebook argued in court that those laws should be declared unconstitutional. That’s breathtaking. Where’s the corporate responsibility? I urge Facebook to come to its senses, accept responsibility, apologize for its conduct, and comply with the law. If Facebook refuses to do this, we will beat them again in court.”
Ferguson said the fine “represents the largest campaign finance penalty anywhere in the country – ever.”
The Center Square reached out to Menlo Park, Calif.-based Meta for comment on the judge’s decision but did not receive a response.
In November 2021, Facebook has changed its corporate name to Meta as part of a major rebrand.
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Meta in 2018 for failing to produce campaign advertising records, and the company agreed to pay $238,000 and commit to transparency in finance and political advertising.
However, Meta continued to run political ads in Washington without maintaining the required information, according to the Attorney General’s Office, prompting Ferguson to sue again in 2020.
By law, campaign finance penalties go to the State Public Disclosure Transparency Account.