The National Rifle Association, as expected, is pouring huge sums of money into the campaign to defeat Initiative 676, the so-called handgun-safety measure.
The advocacy group for gun owners’ rights, based in Fairfax, Va., accounts for about $1.3 million of the nearly $2.1 million that has been raised by the I-676 opposition camp.
Almost all of the NRA money was contributed last week.
“Wow!” said Karen Besserman, manager for the Safety First, Yes on Initiative 676 campaign. “We have always expected to be out-funded with big out-of-state special interest money trying to influence voters here in Washington state. But gosh, it’s happened.”
Much of the NRA money is paying for television ads in the Puget Sound market. A portion also is going toward the salaries and expenses of about eight national NRA executives who are helping Washington Citizens Against Regulatory Excess run the anti-I-676 campaign.
That includes Tanya Metaksa, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. She’s been touring the state to mobilize members - the NRA puts its Washington numbers at 80,000.
“I don’t know what the financial contributions have been,” said NRA spokeswoman Michelle Plasari. “When the reports are due, we’ll disclose our spending.
“We’re doing all we have to do to defeat this initiative,” she added. “I honestly don’t know what the total will be when all is said and done.”
The NRA’s most recent report to the state Public Disclosure Commission was Oct. 9. It could have contributed substantially more since then, but that information won’t be made public until later.
Since Tuesday and through Election Day Nov. 4, neither side can accept contributions greater than $5,000 from an individual source.
“We are going to need some money,” Besserman said. “We have raised less than $1 million, and here we are being outspent 2-to-1.”
She said she hopes donations will be forthcoming when I-676 supporters become aware of the level of the NRA’s financial involvement.
Besserman said I-676 supporters have raised about $900,000. Their biggest contributions are $151,000 from William Gates II, father of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates; $127,000 from the Ceasefire Action Committee; and $100,000 from Floyd Jones, a semiretired Seattle stockbroker.
Bill Gates himself has contributed $35,000.
I-676 would require that all handguns be sold with trigger-locking devices and that all handgun owners take an eight-hour class or pass a test to show they know how to safely handle and store a weapon.
Supporters say it will reduce the number of accidental deaths and injuries from gunshots.
Opponents say the measure is too intrusive and punishes all of the state’s handgun owners for the irresponsible actions of a few.
Opposition ads have been running in the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett television market for about two weeks. But proponents just began airing an advertisement Wednesday.
Two more new 30-second spots are in the works, Besserman said.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Campaign spending In other campaign financing of note: Arizona businessman John Sperling gave $300,000 on Oct. 7 in support of Initiative 685 that seeks to allow the medical use of illegal drugs and change prison policies. This boosted his total contribution to $612,000. Most of the $1.3 million raised by the campaign for the measure has come from three out-of-state men who believe the government’s war on drugs has failed: Sperling, New York billionaire George Soros and Cleveland insurance executive Peter Lewis. The campaign against the measure, led by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, reported raising $65,000 so far, including contributions from Pemco Insurance, Microsoft and Puget Sound Energy. A huge influx of cash from businesses in support of Referendum 47 indicates who expects to benefit from the proposed property-tax cut. The campaign for the cut, which would hardly be noticed by many homeowners, has raised $501,000 in just a few weeks, including $57,000 from Boeing, $50,000 from Weyerhaeuser and $25,000 from Microsoft. Other major contributors include BankAmerica, AT&T; Wireless, KeyCorp, Wells Fargo, Hewlett Packard, McDonald’s, Intel, Boise Cascade, Fred Meyer, Plum Creek and the Association of Realtors. No one has organized a committee against the measure. Businesses continued to rally against Initiative 673, which would enable patients switching health plans or jobs to take their doctors with them and require health plans to cover the services of all willing providers in such areas as chiropractic care and naturopathy. The coalition opposing the measure has raised $1.1 million, mostly from Group Health Cooperative, Regence Washington Health, PacifiCare and First Choice Health Network. Other contributors include $20,000 from the Association of Washington Business and $5,000 from Airborne Express. The initiative’s supporters have raised $290,000, much of it from chiropractors. Dentists are joining forces to stop a freedom movement by dental hygienists who want to open up their own teeth-cleaning shops. A coalition of dentists opposed to Initiative 678 reported raising $145,000, although it had secured $200,000 pledges from both the Washington State Dental Association and the American Dental Association. Dental associations in Texas, Michigan and Nevada also kicked in $15,000. The hygienists have raised $370,000. - The Associated Press