Big Carbon Emitters Put Big Money Behind Keeping State’s Cap-and-Trade Law


The campaign against repealing the state’s cap-and-trade system for major emitters of carbon pollution rolled out a splashy new slate of donors, including two of the larger sources of said emissions. 

No On 2117 now claims more than $11 million in donations and pledges. The new players include Amazon¹, whose carbon footprint is large enough that the company felt compelled to name Climate Pledge Arena after their commitment to reduce carbon, and fossil fuel titan BP, which owns one of the five oil refineries in Washington. BP supported the Climate Commitment Act when it was passed in 2021 because it sees money to be made in a green-energy future. The company’s involvement here is especially notable because it spent millions to defeat a similar carbon-pricing scheme on the ballot just six years ago. 

Also on the list is billionaire philanthropist Connie Ballmer. Remember that meeting that Gov. Jay Inslee took at the Ballmer Group recently? The new money comes on top of the big checks from Bill Gates and other early Microsofties we wrote about. The campaign declined to break down exactly which of the new donors gave/pledged how much, but they’ll have to cough those numbers up to the Public Disclosure Commission soon enough. 

The campaign also rolled out a new video previewing its messaging for the fall. It’s a blend of dire warnings about climate change and reminders that the carbon-allowance auctions conducted under the Climate Commitment Act pump hundreds of millions of dollars into transit, job-producing green energy projects, and other spending that folks might want to continue.

No On 2117 will likely need all this dough because the case for repealing the CCA can be written on the back of a cocktail napkin. Many Washingtonians experience the law as a backdoor tax on gasoline because the oil companies, including BP, are passing compliance costs on to the consumer. Proponents of the initiative will surely remind voters of that. 

The video also repeats the argument that the initiative is the work of one selfish rich dude, a swipe at Republican megadonor Brian Heywood, who pumped millions of his own cash into the signature drive for I-2117 and five other conservative measures. Three of them were so popular that the Legislature adopted them to keep them off the ballot.

While it is likely I-2117 wouldn’t be on the ballot without Heywood, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that more than 400,000 people signed that initiative. Many of those signatures were gathered via the grassroots volunteer organization Restore Washington. 

Unless other oil companies jump in on the yes campaign, it’s likely Let’s Go Washington, Heywood’s PAC, will be badly outgunned in terms of cash this year. It’ll be interesting to see whether voters buy the selfish-rich-guy argument when there’s so much wealth on the other side. 

New federal campaign cash numbers

First-term Democratic Congresswoman Marie Glusenkamp Perez, D-3, continues to pile up a fundraising advantage in her expected rematch with Republican Joe Kent in Southwest Washington’s 3rd District. Perez raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of the year and now has $3 million in hand. Kent, meanwhile, pulled in $225,000 and has $635,000 to work with. 

Camas City Councilwoman Leslie Lewallen — who’s running as a moderate alternative to Kent’s performative MAGA schtick — raised a respectable $193,000 in Q1 and has $217,000 in hand. The Washington State Republican Party made an unusually early endorsement of Kent last year in an attempt to squelch Lewallen.   

The race figures to be close in the November general election because the 3rd was drawn to be Republican-leaning when former GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler held the district. Beutler’s vote to impeach Donald Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection prompted a contentious three-way race in the Republican side² of the primary that left the incumbent out of the money. Perez then beat Kent, whose campaign was more MAGA performance art than an attempt to get elected, with Perez’s highly focused strategy aimed at disaffected moderates. 

Expect the 3rd to be awash in Democratic money defending Perez in the fall. It’s unclear how enthusiastic the national GOP moneyfolk will be about Kent, who would likely be another telegenic grandstander in a Republican caucus that’s already overburdened in that department. One interesting thing to watch: Do those same moneyfolk take a flier on Lewallen?         

Out in Eastern Washington, there’s an open race for the 5th Congressional District, where incumbent GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is peacing out. Front-runner Michael Baumgartner, the Spokane County Treasurer, was crowing last week about a $400,000 haul in the first quarter of the year. Fellow Republican Jaquelin Maycumber was less forthcoming about the $139,000 she raised. The Republic Republican³ currently holds the 7th Legislative District seat in the state House formerly occupied by McMorris Rodgers. 

Three Democrats—Carmela Conroy, Bernardine Bank, and Ann Marie Danimus—have raised more than $100,000 each. Conroy, who spent more than 20 years in the State Department in various interesting international places, pulled in the most at $157,000. But we must give the style points prize to Danimus, who recently threw a fundraiser featuring the Hells Belles, the head-banging all-female AC/DC tribute band. Republicans have held the 5th since 1994, when the late Rep. Tom Foley, D-5, became the first Speaker of the House to lose his reelection bid in more than 100 years.⁴

We wrote about the cash race between Democrats Hilary Franz and Emily Randall in the 6th District earlier this month, but now we see just how decisive that primary contest will likely be. Republican state Sen. Drew MacEwen raised just $45,000 in Q1, a sign that GOP donors aren’t lining up to blow money in a historically safe Democratic district that includes the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas and part of Tacoma. The last Republican to hold the seat, Thor C. Tollefson, lost a reelection bid in 1964.

Republican campaign cash was even thinner on the ground in the nominally swing 8th District—which stretches from the eastern Puget Sound suburbs across the Cascades to Kittitas, Chelan, and Douglas counties. Republican Carmen Goers raised just $12,000 in the first quarter and has only $26,000 in hand. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Kim Shrier pulled in $838,000 for the quarter and has a $2.8 million war chest. Shrier, who flipped the seat in 2018 after now-gubernatorial hopeful Dave Reichert didn’t seek reelection, has since defended it twice, including a 23,000-vote victory over Republican Matt Larkin in 2022.

In the race for the U.S. Senate, the money race is similarly lopsided. Yakima physician Raul Garcia raised $162,000 in the Q1 and has just $151,000 in hand. Incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell raised $1.5 million and sits behind a $6.5 million briar patch. Potential GOP donors no doubt recall the Tiffany Smiley experiment from two years ago⁵ and aren’t keen on sending good money after bad. 


  1. Amazon is a sponsor of the Observer’s annual Re-Wire Policy Conference, which is one of the ways we pay the bills around here. Also, although Amazon’s business is carbon-intensive because of all the trucks, it isn’t a major emitter under the CCA, which is aimed at facilities such as refineries, factories, and power plants.
  2. Yes, we know there’s technically no “Republican side” in the top two primary system. Don’t @ us.
  3. Yes, we went there. She’s from Republic.
  4. In Foley’s defense,1994 was a really bad year for Democrats.
  5. Encouraging poll numbers lured some folks into believing that political newcomer Smiley stood a chance. Longtime incumbent Sen. Patty Murray won by more than 14 percentage points. 

This story is reprinted from the author’s political newsletter The Washington Observer.


Paul Queary
Paul Queary
Paul Queary, a veteran AP reporter and editor, is founder of The Washington Observer, an independent newsletter on politics, government and the influence thereof in Washington State.


  1. In some ways, the new debate on Initiative 2117 (gas tax/carbon program) is a replay of the debate on Initiative 695, the Tim Eyman 1999 measure to reduce the cost of car tabs. By that year, car tab costs had been inflated by adding fees to support unrelated programs. The argument today against 2117 is similar: don’t remove this fee because it funds various worthy programs and a bad person is behind the initiative. The Seattle Times newsroom is clearly supporting the gas tax/carbon program because it has accepted without scrutiny the premise that the program will help combat global warming and has declined to examine inequities with a regressive tax that falls heavily on working people. (You can’t find a better example of why the Democratic Party is losing support from its traditional base of working class workers.) Don’t be surprised if I-2117 passes handily, just as I-695 did.

  2. Agreed.
    Too many of my fellow Democrats have – lemming like – been led by Jay Inslee over the cliff. And Bob Ferguson – a good man – now carries the anchor.


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