October 30, 1997 in Nation/World

Sabey Pours $30,000 Into Mayor’s Race Developer By Far The Biggest Contributor In Independent Campaign To Defeat Geraghty

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Seattle developer is spending heavily on the Spokane mayor’s race, dwarfing any single contribution the candidates have collected for their own campaigns.

David Sabey, owner of NorthTown Mall, has contributed more than $30,000 to try to defeat Mayor Jack Geraghty in an effort that is separate from the campaign of challenger John Talbott.

Sabey’s campaign, mounted by the Seattle-based Citizens Action Coalition, is the biggest of several independent efforts trying to sway voters this fall. The coalition has placed radio ads on several Spokane stations and recently mailed voters an 8-1/2-by-5-1/2-inch card blasting Geraghty for “poor planning and misplaced priorities.”

Geraghty complained recently that he feels like he’s running against two opponents - “the person who filed for the office and a shadow campaign.”

He accused Sabey of trying to hide his involvement by making the contribution through one of his little-known companies, Caryatid Inc.

But Jim Kneeland, a spokesman for Sabey, said the Seattle businessman has been upfront about his involvement in the municipal election, going as far as issuing a statement to the media when the coalition was formed in early September.

“I don’t think there’s any deception here at all. I don’t think there’s anyone in Spokane who doesn’t realize Mr. Sabey is not supporting this mayor,” Kneeland said.

Independent campaigns are becoming increasingly popular because big donors have more control over how the money is spent than if they give money directly to a candidate.

There are no limits on contributions to city candidates.

But independent committees can advertise on some radio stations that do not accept ads from candidates themselves.

Sabey announced in early September that his company would join with other businesses to mount a campaign on issues important to city voters. He and John Stone, a Spokane developer, formed two independent committees, Spokane for a New Century and the Citizens Action Coalition.

Spokane for a New Century spent more than $19,000 on a pre-primary campaign that criticized incumbents for not listening to the public, but did not urge a vote for or against any candidate.

After the primary, Sabey contributed $30,000 to the Seattle-based coalition, which is operated by one of his top executives, Laurent Poole. The money came from Caryatid, a Sabey Corp. biotechnology firm. That contribution is the only one on record with the state Public Disclosure Commission since the primary.

Kneeland said Caryatid had tried unsuccessfully to open a facility in Spokane that would bring “a couple hundred jobs” to the community.

City officials, the staff of the Economic Development Council and of the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute, which helps recruit biotechnology firms, all said they were unfamiliar with any such proposal.

Sabey, who has clashed with city officials over the proposed redevelopment of River Park Square in downtown Spokane, has not contributed money to any of the candidates for city office this year. He was a major contributor to the mayoral campaign in 1993, giving Joel Crosby $1,000 before the election and Geraghty $2,000 after he won.

Geraghty supporters have discussed forming a separate committee to counter the coalition’s effort, and even checked with radio stations to see whether commercial time was available. As of Wednesday, however, no ads had been purchased.

Instead, Geraghty has stepped up his own fund raising in the last week.

As of this week, Geraghty’s top donors include Pridemark Advertising, which donated $2,850 in billboards, and $2,000 each from the city and county employees union, the city firefighters union and Associated General Contractors.

Among those making smaller contributions $500 each to the Geraghty campaign are Citizen Realty, a Cowles Publishing Co. subsidiary involved in the redevelopment; Mr. and Mrs. William S. Cowles, the publisher of The Spokesman-Review and his wife; Allison Cowles, the widow of the newspaper’s previous publisher W.H. Cowles 3rd; and Wanda Cowles, wife of Jim Cowles, the president of Cowles Publishing. The incumbent mayor also received $300 from Blake Nordstrom and $100 from Bruce Nordstrom, executives of the Seattle-based department store that would be the anchor tenant for the proposed River Park Square redevelopment.

Talbott’s top donors include Spokane Home Builders, at $4,000, and Stone, the local developer, at $3,000. Talbott has also loaned his campaign $5,000.

Not all independent campaigns are big ticket affairs. At the other end of the scale in the Spokane municipal elections is the private campaign of Allan LeTourneau, a frequent council watchdog and critic.

LeTourneau can be seen several hours each day driving his pickup or parking it at key places around Spokane. In the truck bed is a reader board with a flashing arrow. The board currently says “City Hall of Shame” and lists his picks for city offices on the Nov. 4 ballot.

LeTourneau has also printed up stickers that say “Stop the Cowles Gang” and signs that carry the names of Talbott and council candidates Cherie Rodgers, Judith Gilmore and Steve Thompson. He estimates he’s spent $3,000 of his own money.

He said he doesn’t believe the newspaper should endorse candidates or ballot issues, but he defends his right to advertise even for candidates who don’t want his support.

Gilmore asked LeTourneau to remove her name from his signs. He refused.

She said she has worked hard not to pick sides in the other races.

“I really didn’t want to be linked with a slate of anybody,” she said.

, DataTimes MEMO: These 2 sidebars appeared with the story:

1. MONEY RAISED Here are the totals of money raised for campaigns in the mayor’s race as of Monday: Jack Geraghty for Mayor Committee: $57,400 Committee to Elect John Talbott: $41,900 Citizens Action Coalition (independent): $36,800

2. ‘DOWNTOWN’ Background: A card is being mailed to Spokane voters by the Citizens Action Coalition, an independent group separate from any candidate, with funding from Caryatid Inc., which is owned by Seattle developer David Sabey. The front shows a cartoon drawing of the proposed Lincoln Street bridge spanning a pothole. The back criticizes Mayor Jack Geraghty for ignoring the city’s neighborhoods by “placing almost all his focus and $73 million on two blocks downtown. There just isn’t enough money left to fix our streets.” Campaign Response: “It’s not just a half-truth, it’s an untruth,” Geraghty said. “We’re not putting any city money into River Park Square.” The money for the development is a combination of a federal loan and downtown parking meter money that would be used only if revenues from a new parking garage don’t cover lease payments and the operations and maintenance costs. None of it could have been used to fix the streets this year, Geraghty said. Rebuttal: Jim Kneeland, a spokesman for the coalition, said the ad does not claim the $73 million could be used to fix streets. Instead, it attempts to point out the difference between the attention given to downtown and the attention given to the streets. “The parking meter money can be used to fix streets, and the HUD money could be used to create jobs all over the city,” he said. Analysis: The ad clearly tries to link the two controversial topics - the River Park Square redevelopment and street repair. In doing so, it mixes money for a current problem, street repair, with money that the city may or may not use in the future: guarantees for a $22.65 million loan from the Housing and Urban Development Department; and guarantees for the lease and operating costs of the garage over the next 20 years. The city and River Park Square developers contend the project will be so successful it is unlikely any city money will ever be needed to cover those guarantees. Sabey Corp. has contended the city’s potentially on the hook for as much as $49 million over 20 years for the parking garage. The coalition is correct that the city could have to use downtown parking meter revenue, but only if garage revenues are below projections. It could also have future HUD funds reduced if developers can’t repay the loan. But the HUD money cannot be used for streets, and the parking meter money would otherwise be used for downtown improvements. Another claim in the ad has a degree of irony when it criticizes Geraghty for not listening to voters and for not spending enough on streets. City voters rejected a street bond issue in 1996. After that, the council borrowed $2.66 million for repairs.

These 2 sidebars appeared with the story:

1. MONEY RAISED Here are the totals of money raised for campaigns in the mayor’s race as of Monday: Jack Geraghty for Mayor Committee: $57,400 Committee to Elect John Talbott: $41,900 Citizens Action Coalition (independent): $36,800

2. ‘DOWNTOWN’ Background: A card is being mailed to Spokane voters by the Citizens Action Coalition, an independent group separate from any candidate, with funding from Caryatid Inc., which is owned by Seattle developer David Sabey. The front shows a cartoon drawing of the proposed Lincoln Street bridge spanning a pothole. The back criticizes Mayor Jack Geraghty for ignoring the city’s neighborhoods by “placing almost all his focus and $73 million on two blocks downtown. There just isn’t enough money left to fix our streets.” Campaign Response: “It’s not just a half-truth, it’s an untruth,” Geraghty said. “We’re not putting any city money into River Park Square.” The money for the development is a combination of a federal loan and downtown parking meter money that would be used only if revenues from a new parking garage don’t cover lease payments and the operations and maintenance costs. None of it could have been used to fix the streets this year, Geraghty said. Rebuttal: Jim Kneeland, a spokesman for the coalition, said the ad does not claim the $73 million could be used to fix streets. Instead, it attempts to point out the difference between the attention given to downtown and the attention given to the streets. “The parking meter money can be used to fix streets, and the HUD money could be used to create jobs all over the city,” he said. Analysis: The ad clearly tries to link the two controversial topics - the River Park Square redevelopment and street repair. In doing so, it mixes money for a current problem, street repair, with money that the city may or may not use in the future: guarantees for a $22.65 million loan from the Housing and Urban Development Department; and guarantees for the lease and operating costs of the garage over the next 20 years. The city and River Park Square developers contend the project will be so successful it is unlikely any city money will ever be needed to cover those guarantees. Sabey Corp. has contended the city’s potentially on the hook for as much as $49 million over 20 years for the parking garage. The coalition is correct that the city could have to use downtown parking meter revenue, but only if garage revenues are below projections. It could also have future HUD funds reduced if developers can’t repay the loan. But the HUD money cannot be used for streets, and the parking meter money would otherwise be used for downtown improvements. Another claim in the ad has a degree of irony when it criticizes Geraghty for not listening to voters and for not spending enough on streets. City voters rejected a street bond issue in 1996. After that, the council borrowed $2.66 million for repairs.


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