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Newly minted Bainbridge councilman empties his campaign coffers by donating leftover funds to charity

Bainbridge City Councilman Val Tollefson. -
Bainbridge City Councilman Val Tollefson.
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After a successful campaign that saw him raise more money than almost every other Bainbridge Island candidate in history, Bainbridge City Councilman Val Tollefson did something that's almost unheard of in political circles.

Tollefson donated the entire balance of his unused campaign war chest to charity.

Jan. 10 marked the deadline day for final campaign finance reports for the November election, and candidates were required to file their end-of-election-cycle reports Friday with the Public Disclosure Commission, the state's watchdog on campaign financing.

Tollefson took his ceremonial oath of office at the city council's first meeting of the year on Wednesday, Jan. 8. His campaign filed its final finance report on Tuesday, Jan. 7.

According to his campaign's close-out report, Tollefson raised $26,378 during his race for a North Ward seat.

In his last report, made in December just after the election, Tollefson reported having more than $3,000 left over from his race.

No more. In the week before Christmas, Tollefson drained his campaign coffers by writing checks to six nonprofits on Bainbridge Island, leaving his campaign balance at zero.

Tollefson donated $750 to the Seniors Giving Project; $500 to Helpline House; $500 to the Bainbridge Island Land Trust; $500 to the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association; $500 to the Bainbridge Public Library; and $408.14 to Bainbridge Youth Services.

"I looked at the PDC regulations on what the options were and it looked like this was, other than hoarding it for use against some future campaign, this looked like this was the option that would put the money to work and keep it on Bainbridge Island," Tollefson said.

Win or lose, candidates with leftover campaign donations typically keep any remaining money to use in future campaigns, give the donations to another candidate or campaign, or dole out bonuses to campaign workers.

Tollefson, however, took a path rarely traveled by candidates for public office.

"It's kind of consistent with my view that a lot of people contributed, and it's all not about me or any particular cause or group. It's kind of all about the island," Tollefson said.

Tollefson, a retired trial lawyer, beat Richard "Dick" Haugan, an advertising consultant, for the Position 7 seat on the city council with a landslide win in November. It was Tollefson's first attempt at public office.

At one point in the race, in July, Tollefson led in the hunt for campaign donations.

Haugan outpaced Tollefson in campaign contributions by November, though, and raised the most money ever seen in a Bainbridge council race: $29,370.

Haugan has not yet filed his close-out campaign financing report. His campaign previously reported spending a total of $28,557 during the race.

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