The president of Greenstone Corp. has disavowed any connection between his company and a negative television campaign against Spokane City Council candidates Jon Snyder and Candace Mumm.
At the same time, business interests funding the ad campaign upped the ante on Monday, adding another $25,500 to the independent television ad buy for a total of $48,700.
Greenstone President Jason Wheaton appeared during the open forum segment of Monday’s City Council meeting and said Greenstone does not want to be associated with the negative campaign. The company is developing Kendall Yards in Spokane and has developed numerous housing projects in Spokane and Kootenai counties.
Wheaton said he thinks the sponsors of the campaign should reassess what they are doing.
Greenstone is listed as contributing $2,000 in January to the Spokane Homebuilders Association PAC. The Homebuilders PAC, in turn, has contributed $5,250 to the ad campaign against Mumm and Snyder.
In an interview after the council meeting, Wheaton explained that Greenstone contributed to the homebuilders to support a campaign in favor of a city charter amendment requiring a supermajority of the council to raise taxes. Voters approved the amendment last February by 51 percent.
“I would ask that those involved reassess their campaign,” Wheaton said, repeating his comments to the council. “I don’t think it’s right.”
He said the attack ad undermines efforts to foster cooperation on the City Council and between businesses and City Hall.
Wheaton said that for Greenstone, “it is unfortunate to be associated with that.”
Snyder, who is running for a second term from the South Side District 2, approached Wheaton after the meeting and thanked him for his comments.
Snyder said the television ads have actually helped him gain additional contributions.
A group called Citizens for Honest Government is poised to support Snyder and Mumm with its own $20,000 ad buy. The group has raised $55,280 so far, primarily from Spokane unions. The Spokane firefighters union, Local 29, and the Washington State Council of County and City Employees have each given $22,500 to the campaign, according to reports.
The ad against Snyder and Mumm, from a group called Jobs and Prosperity for Spokane, criticizes the two for being tied to union interests and accepting contributions from the Spokane Tribe.
The ads are not part of the campaigns of John Ahern, who is challenging Snyder, or Michael Cannon, who is Mumm’s opponent in District 3 in northwest Spokane.
“This just makes Spokane look bad,” Mumm said of the ad campaign. “I think it warrants some investigation.”
The ad campaign is directed by Kate McCaslin, a former Republican county commissioner and president and CEO of the Inland Pacific Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors.
“The content of the ad is true,” she said, and Snyder and Mumm are not disputing that.
“This is accountability,” McCaslin said.
Snyder and Mumm both have numerous union contributions, including maximum contributions of $1,800 each from the Spokane firefighters union and the Washington State Council of County and City Employees PAC.
In addition, Snyder has received $500 from the Spokane Tribe while Mumm has received $900.
The ad running now charges that Snyder and Mumm “are bought and paid for by special interests.”
The builders and contractors’ PAC had contributed $12,000 to the ad campaign as of Monday.
But the largest contributor to the ad campaign is a newly formed group called Eastern Washington PAC, which is headed by Tyler Whitney, who is managing Spokane Mayor David Condon’s 2015 re-election campaign.
Major contributors to the Eastern Washington PAC are Wanda Cowles, $5,000; Jerry Dicker, $2,500; Patty Dicker, $2,500; and Theresa Sanders, $2,500.
Wanda Cowles is the wife of James Cowles; they are members of the family that owns Cowles Co., the publisher of The Spokesman-Review.
In addition, James and Wanda Cowles contributed $2,500 each to the Spokane Homebuilders PAC last week.
Jerry Dicker, through his company, GVD Commercial Properties, is a Spokane developer.
Sanders is the Spokane city administrator under Condon.
Eastern Washington PAC also received $5,000 each from DAA Northwest, which runs an auto auction on the West Plains; its president, Robert McConkey; and general manager and senior vice president Gregory Mahugh.