Tag Archives: campaign finance

Upcoming Forums on Public Financing of Washington State Campaigns

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire has put money in her state budget to use public money to finance Supreme Court and Appellate Court races. Majority House Leader Frank Chopp has said the House will pass legislation to finance public campaigns for judges. Want to learn more about the issue of publicly financed campaigns and why they are needed? Washington Public Campaigns has put together 4 great forums this week that can help change the future of politics in Washington State. Plan on attending.

Friday, January 5 – 7:30 PM

Seattle Town Hall, 8th & Seneca
New York Times’ best-selling author of “Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Have Conquered Our Government-and How We Can Take It Back”

State Representative Linda Valentino (Maine) and State Senator Ed Ableser (Arizona)

WA Senator Jim Kastama WA
and Representative Mark Miloscia
Moderator Ken Alhadeff,
philanthropist, activist, Advisory Board member for national Public Campaign
$5 Donation Suggested at the door – no one turned away
**** PRIVATE RECEPTION, 6 p.m. ****
Also at Seattle Town Hall
Attendance is limited.
Payment must be received by December 30th to reserve signed book.
Light fare provided.
Mail your check for admission to private reception (payable to Washington Public Campaigns) to B.Schlosstein, 10101 SE 3rd St., Bellevue, WA 98004,
$25 Reception only, or $35 per couple
$50 Reception plus signed copy of “Hostile Takeover”
More information: Annie@washclean.org, or call 206-784-9695
Everett Clean Elections Forum
Thursday, January 4th – 7p.m. (Reception, 6:15 p.m.)
PUD Auditorium
2320 California St, Everett
Contact: Chad Shue, chadshue@hotmail.com, 425-341-1061,
or: Harry Abbott, harry.abbott22@verizon.net, 425-783-0270
Tacoma Clean Elections Forum
Saturday, January 6th – 11 a.m
Unitarian Universalist Congregation
1115 S. 56th Street, Tacoma
Contact: Susan Eidenschink, susaneiden@juno.com, 253-572-9305
Olympia Clean Elections Forum
Saturday, January 6th – 3:00 p.m.
Olympia Center
222 Columbia N., Olympia
Contact: Chris Stegman, c.stegman@comcast.net, 360-705-3528

More Limits Needed on Campaign Contributions says WA PDC

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission today voted to recommend that new limits be placed on large contributions corrupting the political process in Washington State. The limits would affect corporations, PAC’s and associations.

According to the Seattle Times

The five-member commission voted unanimously to ask Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Legislature to consider prohibiting groups such as the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Service Employees International Union to give their general funds directly to political action committees that support or oppose candidates. The groups would also be prohibited from using general funds for independent expenditures such as TV or radio ads.
The ban would apply to state offices, including the governor, the Legislature and the Supreme Court.

The commission also wants leaders to consider limiting the annual amount of money individuals or PACs can contribute to other PACs.

We think its high time that the Legislature enact further measures to stop special interests from trying to buy votes from the public. While they may not be putting dollars in people’s pockets like in old, the ability of wealthy organizations like the BIAW to saturate the political process with uncontrolled spending subverts the idea of fair elections.

We are only allowed one vote per person. Yet we know that dollars buy access to the public. Your vote becomes meaningless unless all candidates have fair access to get their campaign message before the voters and are not swamped by special interest megaspending.

The state can help this process by limiting what any individual can give, either directly or indirectly to any candidate. With computers and electronic campaign finance reporting it is easy to keep tabs of how much anyone gives to support or oppose a candidate. Being limited to giving $1400 per election directly to a statewide candidate but being allowed also to give $400,000 to a so called independent PAC that is also spending money to elect that candidate, means you really have no limits on campaign contributions.

Any limit imposed has to be calculated as a total given to a candidate, either directly to the candidate’s registered committee or indirectly to any other campaign committee including a committee of one (an expenditure by a wealthy patron on his own) that is supporting the candidate. Then the influence of concentrated money by special interests is eliminated.

A balancing needs to take place between the rights of free speech and special interest domination of the electoral process such that a narrow special interest can gain an unfair advantage in placing someone they support in office who then acts preferentially toward the donor while fulfilling their duties of office.

The state can go a long way toward reducing the influence of special interest money in elections by providing more public forums and debates among the candidates. For example, State sponsored candidate forums run by the Secretary of State’s Office for the public and press and media in an area that comprises one to two Congressional Districts would got a long way toward helping expose candidates to voters. That means a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 9 candidate forums before the primary and another series for the general election.

Such publicly sponsored forums would help to offset the argument that restricting large donors discriminates against certain candidates and limits their free speech rights.

Another approach is a system of publicly financed campaigns. See Washington Public Campaigns which is pushing for a bill for public financing of judicial races in Washington State in the upcoming Legislative session starting in January. A bill is currently being drafted to be introduced.

The Big Initiative Donors in Washington State

Not surprising, big donors are once again dominating initiative campaigns in Washington state this year. See Initiative reports from PDC.

With his August 8, 2006 donation of another $150,000, real estate developer Martin Selig has now given a whopping $807,500 to the Initiative 920 campaign to abolish Washington State’s estate tax.

Coming in second is the married couple of Michael and Phyllis Dunmire of Woodinville who have been almost single handedly paying for Tim Eyman’s Halloween Madness at the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia. They contributed $357,500 supporting his latest attempt to reduce transportation funding – Initiative 917. The outcome of that effort still remains in doubt as every signature is being checked on the petitions he filed.

Coming in third is the Libertarian moneybags of numerous term limits, tax cutting measures and developer’s rights initiatives across the country. Americans for Limited Government, which is not based in Washington State but in Illinois, gave $200,000 to help collect signatures for Initiative 933 – the Farm Bureau’s effort to eliminate zoning and growth management controls that protect individual homeowners. The measure is best called a Developers Rights Initiative since they are the main beneficiaries.

The person behind Americans for Limited Government is Howard Rich. He is a billionaire real estate developer who lives in New York. Expect to see more money from him in the I-933 campaign. Americans for Limited Government gave some $827,000 to AZHope to collect signatures in an effort to put a developer’s rights initiative on the Arizona ballot this November.


Two of Three Washington State Supreme Court Races to be Decided in Primary!

Washington State primary voters on Sept 19, 2006 will decide at least two of the three Washington State Supreme Court races this year. Washington State has this odd law. For most judicial races, if someone wins a majority in the primary, they win the election. There is no general election vote.

According to the official state webpage of Washington Courts:

“In most instances, a judicial candidate who is unopposed or who receives more than half of the votes in a primary election is thereby elected to the position–he or she does not have to run in the November general election. But if there are three or more candidates, and no one wins more than half the votes cast, the two with the most votes must face each other in the November general election.” (The exception is some district court races.)

In two of the three Washington State’s Supreme Court races this year only two candidates filed. That means that who wins these two seats will be decided by primary voters on Sept 19, 2006. The third race has 5 candidates but if anyone receives a majority in the primary, this election is also over.

The two races that will be decided in the primary are for position #8 between incumbent Gerry L Alexander and John Groen; and for position #9 between incumbent Tom Chambers and Jeanette Burrage.
State Supreme Court Justice Position #8

Gerry L Alexander is currently the Washington State Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, having twice been elected to this position by his peers. Justice Alexander was first elected to the state’s Supreme Court in 1994 and was reelected by Washington voters in 2000. From 1973 to 1984 he was a Superior Court Judge. He served on the Court of Appeals from 1985 to 1994.

John Groen is the candidate recruited by the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) to run against Alexander. It is part of their continued effort to stack the state Supreme Court with so called “property rights advocates” who oppose growth management. While Groen has argued cases before the Supreme Court, he has never been a judge in any of Washington’s lower courts.

Groen was the only judicial candidate to ignore the spirit of the campaign contribution law passed by the Washington State Legislature earlier this year.

While other candidates, including his opponent, chose to abide by the new limits before they went into effect, Groen collected some $128,000 that was over the contribution limit of $2800 for the primary and general election.

(Actually now with filing ended, because the primary will decide this election, candidates in this race will only be able to accept $1400 per contributor, as of the date the law went into effect. The same goes for position #9.)

State Supreme Court Justice Position #9

Tom Chambers is an incumbent Supreme Court Justice, first elected in 2000. He was past President of the Washington State Bar Association and the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association. He has written over 100 articles and has been active in community organizations.

Jeanette Burrage was the executive director for 5 years of the conservative NW Legal Foundation which pushed so called “property rights” issues. She was involved in drafting Referendum 48 to limit growth management and zoning . Voters decisively defeated R-48. Initiative 933 this year is another incarnation of this same attempt to gut growth management by pushing a “pay or waive” proposal on growth management.

Burrage ran previously for the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. She served one term as a King County Superior Court Judge but lost the next election. The King County Bar Association in the past has rated her as “unqualified”. You can read more about her in a recent comment thread on Postman on Politics.

State Supreme Court Justice Position #8

Five candidates are running for this position.

Justice Susan Owens is the incumbent. She ran and won her seat in 2000. Prior to that, she was a District Court Judge in Western Clallam County for 17 years. For 5 years she as the Quileute Tribe’s Chief Judge and for 7 years the Chief Judge of the Lower Elwa S’Klallan Tribe.

Until filing week, Steve Johnson, the candidate recruited by the BIAW, was her chief opponent. By the end of filing last week, three other candidates filed for this seat; Michael Johnson, Richard Smith and Norm Erickson.

If any one of these candidates receives a majority in the primary vote, they will win the election on Sept 19th, otherwise the top two vote getters will appear on the November General Election ballot.

The wild card in these races will be the BIAW’s free spending politics to win more seats on the Supreme Court at any cost. Unfortunately the new campaign contribution limitations law to limit contributions in judicial races has a significant loophole. It does not limit contributions to so called independent PAC’s.

This loophole was exploited in 2004 when the BIAW spent lavishly “independently” to help elect Rob McKenna as Washington State’s Attorney General.

Also previously the BIAW spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect two other members to the State Supreme Court, Richard Saunders and Jim Johnson. When there were no contribution limits on judicial races, a lot of this was given directly to the campaigns.

As noted in the PI:

In 2004, the BIAW and its affiliates helped elect Jim Johnson to the Supreme Court by pouring more than $225,000 into his campaign. Johnson outspent his opponent more than 3 to 1 and on the court has been a reliable defender of property rights — a key issue for the home builders.

Again this year large amounts of money are being spent independently by PACs run by the BIAW. This year they are running an independent PAC called Walking for Washington.
As the Seattle PI noted:

The Building Industry Association of Washington, or BIAW, which promotes a conservative, pro-property-rights, anti-regulation political agenda, is by far the biggest donor — at least $121,048 so far this year — to Walking for Washington. The program is run out of BIAW headquarters in Olympia by the builders’ political director, Elliot Swaney.

Walking for Washington is going door to door, identifying voters and handing out literature supporting Groen and Steve Johnson.

Voters who want to support the current Supreme Court Justices can go to their websites to read more about their campaigns and make donations to help offset the money of the BIAW.

Gerry Alexander

Tom Chambers

Susan Owens

President Bush Leads the Charge for Modern Day Robber Barons!

George Bush is no Teddy Roosevelt. Instead he continues to lead the charge for the big oil companies as they pick the pockets of America’s middle class.

The Washington Post yesterday reported that “Bush Rejects Calls for Tax on Oil Profits

President Bush said Friday that taxing enormous oil industry profits is not the way to calm Americans’ anxieties about pain at the gas pump, and that his “inclination and instincts” are that major oil companies are not intentionally overcharging drivers.”

OK I know I shouldn’t say it but this sounds a little bit familiar. In 2001 the Seattle PI wrote a story entitled “Bush-backing Enron makes big money off crisis

The new president’s rejection of price controls to hold down soaring electricity costs in the Golden State reflects the views of Enron, the largest wholesaler of electricity and largest owner of natural gas pipelines in North America.
The company and its employees have given more than anyone else to Bush’s two campaigns for governor, his unsuccessful House campaign in 1978 and last year’s race for the White House, according to the watchdog Center for Public Integrity.
Enron and its employees gave $113,800 to Bush’s presidential campaign, his 10th most generous contributor; $250,000 to the Republican National Convention host committee; and $300,000 to the Presidential Inauguration Committee.

So what have the oil companies given to Bush. Actually quite a bit. Opensecrets.org notes that in 2004 Bush got $2,627,825 from oil and gas companies. Kerry got only $305,010. In 2000 Bush got $1,930,710. Gore got $142.012.

So want to guess which oil company gave the most contributions to Congressional candidates in 2004? It was the company with the most profits last year, Exxon Mobil, with $935,016. 89% of that went to Republican candidates. The next two oil companies with record profits also gave hugely. . Chevron gave 83% of its $444,509 to Republicans. Conoco Phillips gave 84 % of its $366,628 to Republicans.

So far this year the oil and gas industry has contributed some $3,863,622 to Republicans and some $786,913 to Democrats. Exxon Mobil , with some of the money you gave them at three gas pump in inflated prices, has contributed $303,212 to people running for Congress.

So why is it no surprise that on Wed. the Washington Post said that “GOP Blocks Measures Boosting Taxes on Oil Companies’ Profits”

“While Republican leaders sharply criticize soaring gasoline prices and energy industry profits, GOP negotiators have decided to knock out provisions in a major tax bill that would force the oil companies to pay billions of dollars in taxes on their profits. House and Senate tax writers have been struggling to reach an accord on separate tax bills approved last year to extend some expiring tax cuts enacted during President Bush’s first term. But House Republicans have raised strong objections to Senate-passed provisions that would raise nearly $5 billion in taxes over five years — primarily by changing arcane accounting rules that have allowed oil companies to substantially lower their tax bills, according to House and Senate tax aides familiar with the talks.”

I call Bush and the oil and gas industry Modern Day Robber Barons! Just like Enron.

Port Commissioners Spend Public Money to Lobby for Unrestricted Campaign Contributions

A recent disturbing article in the Seattle Times shows just how out of touch some Seattle Port Commissioners are with the public they represent. The Port of Seattle lobbyist is lobbying the Washington State Legislature to oppose campaign contribution limits that the Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, other statewide office candidates and legislative candidates have to comply with.

The Port of Seattle actually encompasses King County. Homeowners help to subsidize the port by paying a portion of their property taxes to fund port operations. Besides port shipping operations, the port also operate the SeaTac Airport.

Pat Davis, President of the Port, is cited as saying the bill is “anti-democratic.” Funny thing is that when state citizens set up the original campaign contribution law, they did it by an initiative (Initiative 134) in 1992 that won by a 73% yes vote.

Pat Davis received some $56,000 that would have been prohibited by the proposed legislation. Seems to me to be a slight conflict of interest in her supporting the publicly paid Port lobbyist to oppose the legislative bill.

The reason for the legislation (3SHB 1226) actually came about because of the fact that Initiative 134 did not include the Washington State Supreme Court. In the last two elections the Building Industry Association of Washington has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into two State Supreme Court races that they won. In fact, in the most recent race, the BIAW candidate received more money from the BIAW than the other candidate received from all her contributions. According to Washington State Public Disclosure Records , Jim Johnson, the winner, raised some $538,418 to Mary Kay Becker’s $158,119.

Even if this bill passes it will still have a giant loophole. It does nothing to regulate so called independent contributions by PAC’s. Individual contributions need to be limited to a set amount per individual regardless of whether it is given directly to the candidate’s election committee or to some independent PAC that spends the money supporting the candidate. The influence of large contributions spent by entities like the BIAW circumvent the whole idea of linmiting large contributors from buying the election because they are still spent on behalf of electing that candidate even if not given to the candidate’s campaign committee. The most logical solution is to limit the amount any individual can give to an aggregiate total in a race. For example you could give $2700 total in the governor’s race. This total would include contributions directly to the candidate or to a PAC supporting the candidate or both but you could not give more than $2700 total in the governor’s race..

The BIAW spent some $569,009 of so called independent PAC money helping elect Rob McKenna Washington State state Attorney General. Giving a contribution directly to McKenna’s committee would have limited them to some $2700. Spending it separately from the candidate’s committee put no limits on how much could be raised from individual donors. That’s why on election night he personally thanked them for helping get him elected. Independent. Yeh right.

Also of note – the Republican Leadership PAC WA spent some $1,265,000 and the Realtor’s Quality of Life PAC some $101,862. Meanwhile you and I, if we had it, were limited to giving $2700 maximun in the race. Sounds fair right. This needs to change!

3SHB has passed the House and has had a hearing in the Senate. Urge your State Senator to support the bill. While it does only half the job, it is a step in the right direction.

Note- the contribution limit this year is $1400 for the primary and $1400 for the general election – for a total of $2800. The limit is adjusted by the state Public Disclosure Commission every 2 years to reflect inflation.