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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Good Government Alliance wielding unprecedented fundraising to support Woodward and other candidates

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward gathered with supporters in a Logan Neighborhood parking lot last month to accuse her opponent, Lisa Brown, of proposing to create homeless encampments in parking lots across the city. Brown has called this claim a gross mischaracterization meant to distract from Woodward's record.   (Emry Dinman/The Spokesman-Review)

Amid an unprecedented amount of money flooding into Spokane elections this year, one group stands alone: the Spokane Good Government Alliance.

A conservative political action committee created in 2019 to stump on behalf of then-candidate for mayor Nadine Woodward, the Spokane Good Government Alliance has raised $1.4 million to buoy the more conservative candidates in every city election this year: Woodward, City Council president candidate Kim Plese and council member candidates Katey Treloar, Earl Moore and incumbent Councilman Michael Cathcart.

John Estey, campaign manager for Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Spokane, and the executive director of Spokane Good Government Alliance, wrote in an email the group had bipartisan support and the backing of business leaders and activists. The organization’s goal, Estey said, was to inform voters about “radical” and “dangerous” candidates for local office and to lift up their opponents.

“While ideally, voters would learn about candidate records and positions from the mainstream media, in Spokane, there has been a dearth of real reporting about the radical and dangerous agendas held by many candidates for office, including Lisa Brown, Betsy Wilkerson and their slate of radical-left City Council Candidates,” Estey wrote in an email.

Nearly half of the Alliance’s fundraising has come in since the beginning of October, with the Gee Automotive Companies, businessman Larry Stone and the FJ Contribution Company each donating $100,000 or more in the last two weeks. Little information is available about the FJ Contribution Company, though attorney Brady Peterson and Alvin J. Wolff Jr., of the Wolff real estate empire, are registered officers of the limited liability corporation. Wolff has personally donated an additional $30,000 to the political action committee.

As of Tuesday, the PAC had reported spending around $982,000, leaving around $440,000 to influence voters before Nov. 7. The state Public Disclosure Commission, which tracks campaign spending, reports the group has spent around $230,000 to attack mayoral challenger Lisa Brown and a similar amount to support Woodward.

“They’re clearly trying to buy the election outcome that they want,” Brown said in a brief interview Tuesday. “What I’ve seen so far of their ads, they’re cookie-cutter negative attack ads, which is not surprising, given their consultants in Arizona and Virginia.”

The Woodward campaign did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

The lion’s share of the alliance’s spending has been focused on digital, print and TV advertisements. The largest reported expenses include $316,000 with Camelback Strategies, an Arizona-based Republican political strategy group that worked with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s 2022 re-election campaign, and around $495,000 on Go Big Media, a D.C.-based media firm. The latter organization came under fire earlier this year from former President Donald Trump for using his image to fundraise for clients without his consent.

Most of the group’s 47 donors have contributed at least $10,000, and primarily consist of various real estate, hospitality and financial services interests.

Citizens for Liberty and Labor PAC, which formed in 2019 as an explicit rebuttal to the influence of organizations like the Good Government Alliance, is the closest thing to a counterweight to the Alliance. The progressive PAC has thrown its weight behind Brown, City Council president candidate Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson and council candidates Kitty Klitzke, Paul Dillon and Lindsey Shaw.

The Citizens for Liberty and Labor have raised $354,000, including $85,000 from the Spokane Firefighters Union PAC, another $77,000 from Washington progressive political organization Fuse Votes, $70,000 from the Service Employees International Union and $50,000 from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

The Citizens for Liberty and Labor’s expense reports likely lag significantly, as it hasn’t reported any expenditures since July, at which time less than $8,000 had been spent. The largest expenditures include $3,100 with local Lawton Printing to print mailers and $2,500 for San Fransisco-based SpeakEasy Political, a digital communications firm that works with Democrats.

Jim Dawson, Eastern Washington Director for Fuse Washington, a partner in the Citizens for Liberty and Labor PAC, argued the progressive committee was qualitatively and quantitatively different than the Good Government Alliance.

“These are rich special interests looking to maximize their profits,” Dawson said. “The Realtors and developers, they’re the industries whose profits are most impacted by the mayor and council’s decisions, and that they’re putting such a heavy hand on the scale to distort these elections is important.”

Dawson contrasted the handful of individuals and organizations supporting the alliance against the unions supporting the Citizens for Liberty and Labor, some of which represent city employees and have contracts negotiated by the mayor’s office and set by the City Council.

“The unions are not spending nearly the same amount of money, and that money’s raised by their members, thousands of working people who support those union’s positions,” Dawson said. “It’s just not the same level of impact, and it’s way more democratic and representative.”