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Sunday Spin: Democrats flip-flop and denounce donor

Several court decisions make clear that political contributions are protected political speech, so in most cases donors are free to make them. Missing from all the discussions about the kinds and limits of the donations, however, is the responsibility of the people on the other end of the campaign money train.

Along with the right to take gobs of money, don’t recipients have a duty to check out who is giving?

Vetting  everyone who gives $10 obviously isn’t practical, and it might take the great minds of politics to determine what the trigger for a background check should be. But certainly when one accepts a five-figure check, someone on staff should be ordered to find out the bare bones 411. That may have saved the state Democratic Party some headaches, and a case of the flip-flops, last week over some $60,000 it received in recent months from J Z Knight…

 

To read the rest of this post, see videos of Knight or comment, go inside the blog

Big money continues to roll in to campaigns

With just two weeks left for voters to return their general election ballots, large amounts of money are flowing into some Washington campaigns for top offices and measures that propose major changes to state law.

The state Democratic Party reported a $350,000 contribution Monday to its gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, who a local poll suggests is tied with Republican Rob McKenna, and campaign disclosure records show is running behind in the money race. . .

A poll of 500 Washington voters conducted by 360 Strategies said McKenna and Inslee are each supported by 46 percent of those surveyed through the weekend. McKenna has raised about $12.1 million and Inslee about $10.6 milllion, although the Democratic former congressman’s totals don’t yet include Monday’s contribution from the state party, or a $93,000 contribution last week.

At this point in the campaign, state law requires candidates and donors to report any contribution of more than $1,000 as a “last-minute contribution” on a special form.  To see the latest update of the PDC last-minute contribution list, click here.

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog

PDC: Inslee campaign followed rules

The state’s campaign watchdog on Monday rejected complaints about contributions and spending by Democrat Jay Inslee.

 Just days before Washington’s voter get their ballots in the mail and just over three weeks before the deadline to mail them back, the Public Disclosure Commission voted unanimously to reject a complaint against Inslee filed by McKenna’s campaign manager, Randy Pepple…

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Cantwell has big lead in poll, fundraising

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell's re-election campaign was crowing about two bits of good news for her:

Federal Election Commission reports filed this week showed she raised more than $1 million fo the third quarter of this campaign year. And a new poll by Rasmussen Reports shows her with a 20-point lead over Republican challenger Mike Baumgartner.

Rasmussen also has President Obama up by 11 points over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and Washington's gubernatorial race in a virtual dead heat, with Democrat Jay Inslee at 46 percent and Republican Rob McKenna at 45 percent. (Editor's note: Earlier versions of this post had the numbers for the governor's race reversed.)

A spokeswoman for the Baumgartner campaign says they expect to have a figure for third quarter contributions by Friday.

Sunday Spin: Asking for money a waste of an e-mail

Last week, like most weeks, among the hundreds of e-mails that made it through the spam filter were some cheery yet urgent missives from politicians.

Among them was one from Patty Murray, Washington’s Democratic senior senator, andanother from Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican. Not surprisingly, they both wanted the same thing. Money.

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

Who’s buying whom in Congress?

 

 

A Washington, D.C., group that researches money in politics has created lists of what organizations spend what on whom, congressionally speaking.

MapLight also has put its research on a map that allows you go see that information with a few clicks of your mouse or computer pad.

The top 5 contributors for Washington are EMILY's List, Microsoft, Boeing, University of Washington and Weyerhaeuser Company.

Top 5 for Idaho are Amgen, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, American Crystal Sugar, National Automobile Dealers Association, and JP Morgan Chase.

Click on the map above to find more fun facts.

WA Lege Day 22: Initiative ads may have to list donors

OLYMPIA – In the wake of a campaign season that saw a single donor spend nearly $21 million on an initiative to change state liquor laws, a House panel approved a proposal that requires political ads for or against a ballot measure would have to name the largest donors to that campaign.

The House State Government Committee approved a bill Monday by Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, requiring campaign ads for or against initiatives and referenda to name the top five donors to the committee sponsoring the ad. It’s similar to a rule applied to independent campaign ads for or against candidates.

Supporters said the public has a right to know who’s pumping money into the campaigns. That means the names of the actual donors, not “some fluffy sounding name for a committee,” Steve Zemke, chairman of the King County Democratic Party said.

But opponents argued donor information is available on the Public Disclosure Commission’s web site and generally covered in news reports. “I can look that information up in about two seconds,” Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, said.

Billig's proposal is a response in part to record spending on ballot initiatives last year, including nearly $21 million in contributions, plus other “in-kind” support, by Costco for an initiative that ended the state monopoly on wholesale and retail liquor sales.

The committee sent it to the full House on a 7-4 vote, but rejected a separate proposal by Billig to place limits on contributions to initiative campaigns similar to those faced by candidates for statewide office.

School Board campaign limits pass House

OLYMPIA — A proposal to place the same limits on campaign contributions to school board candidates that apply to legislators and other city and county candidates passed the House overwhelmingly Friday.

But not before some grousing by a few Republicans who thought the Legislature has better things to do.

Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said HB 2210 puts a limit of $800 on contributions to school board candidates. While most contributions are far less, in a few instances last year they were much more. One of them was in his district, Billig added. 

“These limits, they give confidence to voters, they reduce the opportunity for corruption and undue influence of large donations,” said Billig, the bill's prime sponsor.

That was a reference to last year's Spokane District 81 School Board race, in which Duane Alton, a retired tire dealer and longtime Republican activist, gave unsuccessful board candidate Sally Fullmer $6,350, which was almost half of all the money she raised.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, accused Billig and other Democrats of proposing a “cookie cutter solution” — and even worse a Seattle solution.

“We have Seattle pushing its rules on the rest of Washington,” DeBolt complained. Seattle can limit their contributions and “gum up their works.”

“If Seattle thinks they need to limit their contributions or add a dollar in their electric bill to pay for things like elections, then they can do that,” he added. The bill would make schools “go through more costs…when we're in a time when we can't even fully fund education, then I think that's absurd and that's exactly what's wrong with this place.”

(Note: There's really nothing in the bill that calls for adding a fee to electric bills to pay for elections, or placing the cost of elections or tracking contributions on schools.)

Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, countered with a “clarification” that the district Billig was talking about was in Eastern Washington.

The bill passed 71-24. You can see the entire debate in the video above.

Contribution limits for school board candidates

After dinging Rep. Andy Billig a bit below on proposed changes to voter registration, it only seems fair to note an excellent idea of his, which also got a hearing last week.

The Spokane Democrat has a bill that would set the same $800 limit on contributions to school board candidates that applies to people seeking legislative, county and city office. After several school board races with big donations, including one in Spokane last fall, it’s an idea whose time has come.

Sunday Spin: What’s fair when keeping candidates from cash?

OLYMPIA – Washington Republicans are exorcised over a wrinkle in state election laws that restricts some candidates, but not others, from raising money during a legislative session. Their concern is logical, although not necessarily consistent. It goes like this:
No state elected official can raise money for a state office while the Legislature is in session. That means Rob McKenna, the state attorney general who would like to be governor, can’t hold fundraisers or dial for dollars while, or shortly before, the legislators are ensconced in Olympia.
Given the bleak prospects for legislators settling the budget problems any time soon, Republican McKenna is at a disadvantage with Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee, who is not a state official and is under no such restriction.
States have limited ability to tell members of Congress how they can or can’t raise money – it’s a federalism vs. state’s rights thing – but an argument can be made at some point this gets seriously out of whack in the money-grabbing department. Maybe if the Legislature goes from its current special session into a regular session a few weeks later, then needs another special session to finish work (as it has the last two years), McKenna should be allowed some sort of catch-up period in which he’d be allowed two fundraisers for every one of Inslee.
Restrictions on money-raising during a session were approved to keep some people from donating to a candidate not because they think he or she is the best person to hold the office being sought, but to influence legislation in the session at hand. It’s a good, if imperfect, law.
But Republicans might want to think before protesting too loudly, because if one were to expand it logically, it also would bar legislators who are running for Congressional office from raising money during the session. That’s currently allowed, and a good argument can be made that it’s closer to the public goal of separating campaign contributions from current job performance.
There’s a fair number of legislators running for Congress in 2012, including state Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane. This kind of rule would put him at an even greater disadvantage in his fledgling race against U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.
Strangely enough, a bill introduced by several Republican legislators to address the McKenna-Inslee situation doesn’t get around to the Baumgartner-Cantwell situation. There may be federal court fights in the wings for either change, but if they were really serious about the good government aspect of this, seems they’d cast a wider net.
  

Long freeze coming for some candidates

OLYMPIA — The upcoming special session of the Legislature may complicate campaign cash-grabbing for some candidates, but give others a leg up.

State law bans state elected officials from accepting campaign contributions during a special session and from 30 days before a regular session until that session ends.

The freeze, as it's called, starts on Nov. 27, the day before the special session starts, and continues until that session ends. If the special session lasts past Dec. 10 (something for which you could get really good odds, if Vegas bookmakers were foolish enought to bet on Legislatures) the 30-day ban in front of the regular session kicks in, so the freeze continues into January, February … and however long it takes for the Legislature to finish the rest of its business.

Will they need a special session to get everything done? Who knows. But they've need them for the last two years.

So incumbents up for election in 2012 might not be accepting checks from Thanksgiving weekend until sometime in mid March, at the earliest. Their challengers who aren't in office can.

Also affected are state elected officials who will be running for some other state office. So State Attorney General Rob McKenna's campaign for governor is frozen out, starting Nov. 27. But his chief Democratic challenger, Rep. Jay Inslee, isn't because the law doesn't — in fact, can't — cover federal officials.

That principle that a state can't put limits on federal candidates works in reverse, too. State Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, for example, isn't barred from raising money for his campaign for U.S. Senate against incumbent Maria Cantwell. Neither are any of the other legislators who might run for Inslee's old seat, once they know where the boundary lines are.

Murray in Common Cause sights for defense $

Super committee co-chairwoman Patty Murray gets more money from defense contractors than any other member of the panel assembled to find ways to cut the budget deficit.

So says Common Cause, a public watchdog organization and longtime critic of the campaign financing system, in a new report.

Murray, D-Wash., has received more than a quarter million dollars from the defense industry since 2004, $247,000 to her re-election campaign and $29,000 to her “leadership PAC” a separate campaign fund that funnels money to other candidates.

Of course, one could argue that's not surprising, considering one of the nation's biggest defense contractors is also one of Washington state's biggest employers, Boeing.

Common Cause looks at it another way: That military spending doubled in the last decade and contracts to defense suppliers went up even faster. And 20 percent of all those contracts went to just five companies, one of which was Boeing.

“These companies are pooling their resources – working through vehicles such as their trade group, the Aerospace Industries Association – in an attempt to keep Pentagon spending as high as possible in the face of pressures to reduce the federal deficit,” the report contends. “Their most immediate goal is to keep defense spending out of the super committee’s deficit reduction proposal.”

When it becomes a bribe, not a contribution…

Good morning, Netizens…

 

Cartoonist David Horsey takes a look at the occupation of Wall Street and the Romney campaign in the same unfettered glance and as is often the case, has chosen to overlook the funding of Democratic candidates in the process. You can bet your election contributions that Romney isn't the only candidate with his hands in Wall Street's coffers, no sir and/or ma'am.

 

Now if we were to pass stringent laws that made campaign contributions illegal, because they amount to bribes, what would that do to the political spectrum? Neither side of the political fence would allow such a law to be passed by the House and Senate. It simply would never happen! All political candidates, regardless of their flavor, could possibly fund their huge campaign war chests without contributions. They are bribes after all, aren't they?

 

You could apply this same legal logic to our local political campaigns, too and make political contributions to Queen Mary Verner's campaign illegal and then sit back in your easy chair and listen to potential sources of Queen Mary's bankroll howl like a pack of wounded dervishes at feeding time. You could easily envision the political spectrum in Spokane suddenly lurch, taking on a new and hitherto unimaginable chaos on the streets and byways of Spokane as the candidates had to find new pathways to pay for their television and news media advertisements.

 

Would dumping the campaign contributions help or hinder the political process? That seems like a fair question on the day after Hump Day, doesn't it? Of course your opinions and ideas may differ.

 

Dave

Money pours into initiative campaigns

Soda pop sellers, liquor distributors and discount retailers are pouring millions of dollars into Washington to convince you how to vote on a slew of statewide ballot measures.
Some $30 million so far – the majority from out of state – has flooded the coffers of campaigns for or against a wide array of initiatives to the people, a process in Washington that lets voters enact laws they feel their legislators won’t.
While that right was initially given to the public in 1914 as a way to counterbalance the influence of powerful interests on the Legislature, this year’s campaign contributions illustrate how it has increasingly become the province of special interests, big business and unions.
“The old purpose of the (initiative) process is being subverted,” Blaine Gavin, professor of political science at Gonzaga University, said. “Interest groups recognize there’s another way to make law, and big powerful interests know how to conduct good advertising campaigns.”
To read more, go inside the blog…
Or check the list of the Top 25 contributors to all initiative campaigns, and the Top 10 Spokane area donors in the post below.

State has map for legislative campaign funds


Click on the image to get to the PDC’s interactive map on  legislative campaign spending.

Let’s get real and just sell space on the ballot

Washington voters are on track to have at least nine statewide measures on the Nov. 2 ballot, which would be a state record. While some applaud this as a triumph of direct democracy, it is, more accurately, a triumph of electoral capitalism.
Along with three referenda placed on the ballot by the Legislature, the six initiatives seemingly destined for the ballot are beneficiaries of substantial corporate sponsorship, which provided money to pay people who gather signatures on their petitions.
Relying on volunteers to gather signatures has become so 20th Century, although a seventh initiative, to legalize marijuana, might succeed if its supporters can stay motivated through July 2. Meanwhile the paid campaigns are booking dates to turn in petitions with a hundred thousand or more extra signatures.
Early contributions to some successful petition drives are so substantial it only makes sense to dispense with the alpha-numeric designations to initiatives and award naming rights…

Turning down the money spigot on local elections

OLYMPIA – With little fanfare last week, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill that could force a big change in Spokane politics.
Senate Bill 6344 could cut the tendons of groups that have flexed the most muscle in recent city council and mayoral campaigns, the city employees’ unions and the builders, and keep anyone from trying to throw weight around in a county race for sheriff, prosecutor, clerk – although, truth be told, clerk races rarely draw the big bucks.
Starting June 10, no person, committee, business or union will be allowed to give a candidate more than $800 per election. In Washington state, that really means $1,600 in a campaign year if the candidate gets his or her hand out early, because the primary and the general count separately.
For most donors in most races, that’s more than they’re going to give, anyway. Give someone a grand and a half to run for city council? Isn’t that like a month’s pay for that job?
But a few people or groups have a tendency to give more — way more…

Following the money: Prop 4 spending

(Note: This story appeared in Sunday’s paper, and through an oversight on my part didn’t get posted simultaneously to the blog. So it appears here with links to the spread sheets that show the campaign spending, for those political junkies out there that eat this stuff up. Jim Camden.)

Among the talking points hotly debated by both sides in the campaign over the city of Spokane’s Proposition 4 is whether the proposed changes are good or bad for local business.

The talking point on the “Yes” side says a requirement for local banks to reinvest local money in local business will pump more money into the Spokane economy and help mom-and-pop businesses struggling against the national chains and big-box stores. The talking point on the “No” side says that provision isn’t what local businesses need, and requirements for prevailing wages and apprenticeship programs will put locals at a disadvantage against competitors just across the city line.

Talk, as the saying goes, is cheap – although during a campaign, speech covers everything from folks bloviating at forums to literature in the mailbox, TV ads and radio spots. Campaign speech often comes with a payment-due notice from sign makers, print shops, commercial schedulers and consultants.

So the question is, when the campaigns pay for such speech, and anything else they need to convince you of the rightness or wrongness of Prop 4, who spends their money locally, and who spends it elsewhere?

On the Web: Deep Throat would be proud

Follow the money. That’s what Deep Throat told Bob Woodward during Watergate. Or at least, that’s what Hal Holbrook told Robert Redford in the Hollywood version.

People have been repeating the admonition ever since. And the National Institute on Money in State Politics has borrowed it as the name for its new Web site, which allows the public to check out the campaign contributions in most states from the 2008 elections.

By clicking on Washington’s numbers, one can find that Democrats far outpaced Republicans in the biennial money grab, about $404 million to about $28.5 million. That Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi nearly achieved parity, $11.8 million to $11.6 million respectively. That Spokane Sen. Lisa Brown raised more money than any other Senate candidate, $393,000, even though she was running against an independent, unknown novice candidate. And so on.

Idaho numbers are up, too. The Gem State didn’t have the statewide races or ballot issues that help drive the dollar figures, but the legislative numbers are there for the looking.