So far, big independent money has yet to really play a role in the Seattle City Council races. Looks like that might be about to change. The Affordable Housing Council, the political arm of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, dropped $35,000 apiece into PACs supporting candidates in three of the hottest races.
The checks went to Elliott Bay Neighbors¹, backing Rob Saka in District 1 (West Seattle and South Park); University Neighbors, supporting Maritza Rivera in District 4 (the University District and points northeast); and Greenwood Neighbors, backing Cathy Moore in District 5 (the central part of North Seattle.) All three seats are open this year.
The builders are typically looking for favorable climates to build things, and generally oppose things like rent control, requirements for affordable units, and high construction impact fees. All three of the candidates they’re backing face progressives who are likely to embrace those ideas.
Elsewhere in builder money, the pro-business Spokane Good Government Alliance continues to rake in big checks for its campaign to defend incumbent Mayor Nadine Woodward against former Democratic state lawmaker Lisa Brown. The pro-business PAC got $55K from LTSK LLC and $30K from RJ Construction. Per the Secretary of State’s data on Washington corporations, LTSK is controlled² by Bill Lawson, one of the Lilac City’s most prominent developers.
The Alliance has spent more than $500K this cycle, mostly in opposition to Brown, who finished well ahead of Woodward in the August primary.
On the other side of that race, SEIU 775, the powerful union representing long-term care workers, sent $20K to Citizens for Liberty and Labor, a PAC tied to the Spokane Firefighters Union. The firefighters themselves have chipped in $85K, while the Washington Education Association added $10K. That PAC hasn’t spent much so far; expect them to go big in the final weeks of the campaign.
In state-level campaign cash, something called SF Impact LLC cut a $25K check to the Harry Truman Fund, the soft-money³ PAC controlled by House Democrats. Again per the Secretary of State, the company appears to be controlled by Chris Stolte, one of the founders of Tableau Software, and one of the millionaires and billionaires who play in Democratic politics here.
In that same vein, Jeff and Tricia Raikes each wrote $12.5K checks to the Washington Senate Democratic Campaign, the hard-money PAC controlled by Senate Democrats. Jeff Raikes was a very early Microsoftie. The couple run the Raikes Foundation, which does a variety of good works, especially for young people.
1. As we noted before the primary, there are few, if any, actual neighbors involved in any of these committees. The rest of the money comes from some of the city’s richest citizens.
2. Builders frequently set up a limited liability company, or LLC, for each project, to protect one project from financial problems on another. These companies sometimes get used to game the campaign contribution limits. (Go read our story on this from last year; there’s a poop joke.) In this case, there’s no limit on giving cash to independent groups like the alliance.
3. For review, “soft money” — which typically comes from companies and unions — can be used for independent campaigns supporting or opposing candidates, but can’t be given to candidates directly. There are stricter limits on giving “hard money,” which can go to candidates.
This article first appeared in the author’s political website, The Washington Observer.