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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Sunday Spin: When they try to buy our votes, shouldn’t they buy other local things too?

OLYMPIAWashington is developing into THE PLACE for interest groups of every political stripe to try out their ballot initiative.

From gun control to same-sex marriage to legalized marijuana, national organizations have decided they love a state big enough to test out their legislation on a diverse population, but small enough to have relatively few media markets (the term campaign types use for cities) and relatively affordable ad rates.

Thus we see corporate agriculture and the organic food industry preparing to spend millions on a food labeling initiative. They’ll likely subscribe to the Costco theory of ballot politics, which says that if you spend enough money, and try enough times, you can convince Washington voters to pass almost anything.

It’s not a terrible thing have outside interests using their money trying to tell Washington voters what to do. . .


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. . . But considering the state’s economic woes over the last several years, it seems fair to point out we do not get the full benefit of that largesse.

Yes, the local television stations – and to some extent radio stations, and even newspapers – haul in some money for the ads. But campaigns spend big bucks on many other things, like polling and consulting and commercial production, and for many campaigns, that money goes to companies thousands of miles away. Even what would seem to be the most local of initiative-related activities, paying people to gather signatures, is sometimes farmed out to out-of-state companies, or paid to semi-nomadic name-beggars who travel the initiative states like latter-day Joads.

If the Legislature truly wants to boost the economy and help local businesses – which based on pronouncements at press conferences or floor speeches over the last six months are jobs 1 and 1A for some members and no lower than Job 3 for the rest – they should consider tapping this.

If Washington is going to be to ballot politics what Boeing is to jetliners and the Palouse is to soft white wheat, the state should require a healthy chunk – let’s make it a super-majority because that’s so fashionable – of all money raised be spent in the state, by companies located in the state, who employ people who live in the state. Any campaign that doesn’t do that in any given month could be subject to a fee, we won’t call it a tax or Republicans won’t consider it, equal to 10 percent of that month’s receipts.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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