June 24, 2012 in City

Mayor raising funds for re-election plans

Condon has already raised $25,000
By The Spokesman-Review
Condon’s early top donors

The following have contributed $1,800 to Condon’s 2015 re-election bid:

Clearwater Paper, a paper company headquartered in Spokane

James Cowles, chairman of Inland Empire Paper Co., a subsidiary of the Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review

Wanda Cowles, James Cowles’ wife

DAA Northwest, a vehicle auction and reconditioning business

Spokane Mayor David Condon is already building a campaign chest for a race in which he faces no opponent – at least not yet.

Condon said at a news conference earlier this month that he intends to run for re-election in 2015.

“I’ve got 36 months left, folks,” Condon said June 1. “From today, I’ve got three years to prove to the citizens that I’ve done what they’ve wanted me to do.”

Condon already employs a part-time campaign manager. He mailed a request for money to supporters in April that warned of “special interest groups” blocking change at City Hall, and he is holding a barbecue fundraiser this week.

His early re-election efforts are a departure from past mayors, who generally didn’t start significant fundraising efforts or maintain paid campaign staff until much closer to Election Day.

The strategy of previous incumbents hasn’t proven fruitful. No Spokane mayor has won a second term since David Rodgers nearly 40 years ago.

Condon already has raised about $25,000 and spent nearly $10,000 on his 2015 campaign.

“The mayor wants to maintain contact with supporters,” said Condon’s campaign manager Tyler Whitney. “He also wanted to maintain contact through his campaign tools.”

On Wednesday, Condon’s campaign will earn $40 per person or $320 per table at a barbecue at the home of Myrtle Woldson, a businesswoman and philanthropist who lives near the mayor and contributed to his campaign last year.

Some of Condon’s fundraising techniques are similar to those of his former boss, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane. His campaign kickoff brunch last year was a breakfast at the downtown Doubletree Hotel. Businesses or other contributors could sponsor tables, and attendees were hit up for more money after a video and a speech. McMorris Rodgers used the same format at her re-election campaign kickoff in the same hotel ballroom this year.

Condon served as McMorris Rodgers’ district director until he became a candidate for mayor.

In April, Condon mailed a letter coinciding with his first 100 days in office, outlining his accomplishments.

“Not everyone acknowledges our progress,” said the letter. “After a commanding win in November, naysayers are already attacking our accomplishments. The special interest groups do not want to see change at City Hall. It is imperative that I have the resources to counter these attacks.”

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said he is unsure what “special interest groups” Condon is referring to.

“I definitely have not seen an organized effort to discredit the mayor’s accomplishment thus far,” Stuckart said.

Whitney said Condon wasn’t referring to city unions or any specific person or group.

The line “served as a reminder that even while making great progress, there will always be mudslingers like Ms. Riordan who would rather try to score cheap political points than pick up a shovel and help Spokane move forward,” Whitney wrote in an email.

The “Ms. Riordan” he’s referring to is Tanya Riordan, who worked last year for the liberal activist group Fuse Washington and filed a complaint against Condon’s campaign with the state Public Disclosure Commission before Condon’s election.

Commission staff members examined the complaint this month and determined that it deserved further investigation. PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said it will be assigned to a staff member, a report will be written and the commission will make the final call about possible violations. The maximum penalty the commission can issue is a $4,200 fine.

 Riordan’s complaint stems from donations the state Republican Party made to Condon’s campaign. Within three days last October, the party received five contributions totaling $25,000 from Spokane County businesses and residents. The donations were directed to a fund set up to aid candidates in municipal and county races; the fund received no other contributions from Spokane County sources in October.

Two weeks after the money came in, on Oct. 27, the state GOP gave David Condon $25,000.

Two of the five contributors were 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.”

Condon and state party leaders say no promises were made and that earmarking did not occur.

“This is a zombie complaint,” Whitney said. “It should have died with the campaign.”

Sharon Smith, the chairwoman of the Inland Northwest Leadership Political Action Committee, said Riordan filed the complaint because the contributions “looked to us like outside the bounds of a miracle incident.”

Smith’s PAC supported ex-mayor Mary Verner in the 2011 election.

“That’s all we wanted, was for them to take a look at it,” Smith said.

After Riordan’s complaint was filed, the party contributed another $38,000 to Condon’s campaign.

Condon raised $318,000 for his 2011 campaign, the most ever raised by a candidate for Spokane mayor, at least since the city’s form of government switched to a strong mayor system in the 2000 election. Condon’s opponent, Verner, only raised about $126,000. The most previously raised by a candidate for Spokane mayor in the strong mayor era was John Powers in 2000. He raised about $290,000.

Stuckart, who is the only nonjudicial Spokane city official who is elected citywide beside Condon, said he wouldn’t rule out running for mayor in 2015 when asked last week.

“In my world I haven’t yet had the time to say, ‘What am I going to be doing in 2015 and let’s start planning for it,” Stuckart said. “We’ll approach that subject in 2014.”

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