The state Republican Party gave David Condon’s campaign for mayor $25,000 on Oct. 27. It’s easily the largest contribution to a Spokane candidate this year, and has supporters of Mayor Mary Verner calling foul.
Verner’s backers accuse the Condon campaign of skirting campaign finance rules barring contributors from giving more than $800 to a candidate for each election. State parties, however, can give a candidate 80 cents per registered voter. In Spokane, that amounts to more than $110,000.
Last month the state GOP received five contributions totaling $25,000 from Spokane County within three days. It was all the money received from Spokane County sources in October for a fund that has aided candidates for municipal and county races.
Two weeks later, the state GOP gave David Condon $25,000.
Two of the five contributors are companies owned by Condon’s brother, Ted Condon. Four of the five, including one of the companies owned by his brother, had already given the maximum amount allowed to Condon’s campaign.
State law bars parties from promising donors that their contributions will go to certain campaigns, a practice known as “earmarking.” Tanya Riordan, an organizer for the liberal activist group Fuse Washington, filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission this week. PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson confirmed that a complaint had been received.
David Condon said he and the state party played by the rules and pointed to what he described as similar tactics used by Verner supporters.
Condon said Thursday it’s no coincidence that some of his supporters gave to the fund. He said he suggested the idea to them because he knew the party was contemplating a contribution to his campaign. He said the party has recently become more active in local races.
But Condon said Republican officials did not promise the party would give him money and no money was earmarked.
Several of his other supporters also gave a total of more than $20,000 to the fund in August and September, including Myrtle Woldson, a neighbor of Condon’s who contributed $3 million to restore the Fox Theater.
Peter Graves, executive director of the Washington state Republican Party, said the correlation between the amount given by Condon supporters last month and the contribution to Condon’s campaign is coincidence. He stressed that the party made no promises to donors about which campaign it would support.
The party decided to give to Condon to “take her (Verner) out before she gets a chance at a free shot at a great congresswoman in the Fifth District,” said Graves, referring to Condon’s former boss, Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. He said many have speculated that Verner may someday run for Congress. Until earlier this year, Condon was McMorris Rodgers’ district director and deputy chief of staff.
“We want to make Spokane County a reliably Republican county, and that starts with the city,” Graves said.
Condon said despite his Republican roots, he will work to be nonpartisan if elected mayor and will have Democrats in his administration.
He also pointed to the Inland Northwest Leadership Political Action Committee. That group has spent about $25,000 in support of Verner, including anti-Condon mailings, and has received contributions from many who maxed out their contributions to Verner’s campaign, including two public employees unions.
Sharon Smith, executive director of the PAC, said the difference is her group is independent of Verner’s campaign.
“It’s completely and entirely up to us, and we don’t pass anything through to the campaign, and they have no control over what we do,” said Smith, former chairwoman of the Spokane County Democratic Party.
The state Democratic Party has backed Verner, but only gave her $1,000.
Condon’s father, John Condon, was a prominent Republican fundraiser. Barr-Tech Inc., which gave $4,000 to the state GOP on Oct. 12, is co-owned by Ted Condon, who also owns Northwest Industrial Services, which gave $4,000 on the same day.
Barr-Tech has a contract with the city of Spokane to accept the city’s yard waste at its composting facility. Northwest Industrial Services has a railroad construction unit that is working on Spokane County’s Geiger Spur project to realign a rail line off Fairchild Air Force Base.