Over the last two years, the Consumer Protection Division of the Washington Attorney General’s Office (“CPD”) has carried out an expansive, highly intrusive probe into the affairs of the Second Amendment Foundation, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, the Service Bureau Association, Liberty Park Press, Merril Mail Marketing, Alan Gottlieb, and his family. It has served Civil Investigative Demands (“CIDs”) on each of the plaintiffs citing the same consumer protection laws Ferguson was unanimously found to have misused by the Washington Supreme Court in a recent decision.
In June of 2021, the CPD obtained a gag order from King County Superior Court that had the practical effect of preventing SAF’s accountants from speaking with SAF, interrupting SAF’s ability to complete audits of its finances. The gag order applied to an array of other third parties from whom CPD also demanded documents, including the essential vendors that make the activities of SAF possible.
The following year, in May of 2022, CPD began serving CIDs directly upon SAF and other entities associated with Mr. Gottlieb. The CIDs contained dozens of interrogatories and requests for extensive document production, as well as multiple demands that Mr. Gottlieb and others sit for depositions. These CIDs even demanded information regarding events that had transpired more than four decades ago. SAF, having nothing to hide, complied with the CIDs after securing legal counsel, supplying over 17,000 thousand pages of records and spending hundreds of man hours searching for and compiling the requested information.
Despite repeatedly asking for an explanation of what unlawful activity SAF was suspected of committing, the CPD has only offered nonspecific and illogical answers. In June of 2023, Mr. Gottlieb sat for the first of several planned days of depositions CPD has demanded from him. Even hours of questioning did not illuminate the purpose or origin of CPD’s dissection of SAF’s actions. Counsel for SAF wrote the CPD, demanding the campaign of harassment cease, only to be met with a new theory of alleged violations – that SAF had “violated the law for many years by soliciting charitable contributions and engaging in commercial fundraising without registering with the Secretary of State.” After auditing all of the entities, including SAF, the new theory presented by the CPD was also unable to stand on its own, as all of the entities (including SAF) were either exempt or had already complied with the law.
Earlier this year, the Plaintiffs filed suit against the Defendants in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. After being presented with a motion to dismiss that primarily challenged federal jurisdiction, the Plaintiffs voluntarily withdrew their lawsuit after deciding that litigating ancillary issues of federal jurisdiction was a waste of time and resources and a distraction from the underlying merits. The same day, SAF and Mr. Gottlieb filed a completed General Liability Claim Form #SF 210 with the Washington Office of Risk Management.
On September 18, 2023, the Second Amendment Foundation, five other entities, and Alan Gottlieb filed this state action against the Washington Attorney General, the Assistant Attorney General who lead the investigation for the Consumer Protection Division, the Attorney General’s Office for the State of Washington, and John Does 1-10. The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the Defendant’s politically motivated harassment violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments and an order enjoining defendants from serving or enforcing further CIDs for politically discriminatory or retaliatory purposes.
Case Team: Jack Lovejoy, Steven Fogg