MYNORTHWEST POLITICS

‘It’s not our list’: AG Bob Ferguson responds after state sent checks to dead people

Jan 2, 2024, 8:05 PM | Updated: Jan 3, 2024, 11:01 am

attorney general checks...

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. (Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP)

(Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP)

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is responding to criticism over $40.6 million that’s being distributed among the state’s low-income households.

The money has come from a from a settlement Ferguson won after suing chicken and tuna companies for price fixing.

The chair of Washington State’s Republican party, Rep. Jim Walsh, is calling out Ferguson not for the settlement, but the process of distributing the refunds saying they appear to be sloppy and mismanaged.

Walsh calls the money being sent out the “Fishy Fergie Checks.”

“Quite a few people who’ve been deceased for years or decades are getting the checks,” Walsh said.

More on chicken, tuna companies price fixing: Checks are out to 400,000 Wash. households from $40M price-fixing settlement

Walsh claimed the number of people who’ve contacted him about long-dead relatives receiving checks is in the hundreds. He also stated there are also cases where non-low-income residents are getting refunds.

“It’s not exactly clear what mailing list or database the state attorney general is using to send the checks out,” Walsh added.

Ferguson’s office aimed to provide $40.6 million in financial redress to households with incomes at or below 175% of the federal poverty level. Approximately 402,200 Washington households are set to receive these reimbursements, benefitting over 1.2 million residents, constituting around 15% of the state’s population.

AG Ferguson responds to KIRO Newsradio

“We worked with Experian, so it’s not our list,” Ferguson told KIRO Newsradio. “We went to a data broker or somebody who would have, what we believed, to be as reliable a list as can exist for sending out 400,000 checks to Washingtonians. Obviously, on a data set that large, the system’s not going to be perfect.”

But there’s something else that’s raising eyebrows. Ferguson’s name is on the check and, on an accompanying note, that’s being distributed at a time when he’s running for governor.

“A cynic would say that he did this thing in an attempt to get his name on checks to people to encourage them to support his gubernatorial campaign,” Walsh said.

Ferguson said his name is only on the check so recipients know it’s a real government check, not part of a scam.

Dog lovers unite: Washington ranked 3rd for most spoiled dogs

“Look, I get what this is all about, but this is a practice that we’ve been doing for literally a decade and nobody’s complained,” Ferguson said in response to Walsh’s claim. “I get that people are complaining now because I’m running for another office. The state Republican party is literally tweeting out that people should sign their checks over and donate them to the Republican party.”

Walsh admitted the practice breaks no legal or ethical rules, but said he’s considering legislation that would prevent it in the future.

All payments were slated to be delivered before Dec. 31, 2023, according to a statement last month from the attorney general’s office. For those who believe they qualify but haven’t received a check, a claims form is available at the State of Washington King County Superior Court’s website. Users can submit a claim until June 5.

Heather Bosch is an award-winning anchor and reporter on KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of her stories here. Follow Heather X, formerly known as Twitter or email her here.

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