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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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June 11, 2008 10:27 AM

UPDATED: Gregoire got big party cash last month

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s re-election campaign touted her May April fundraising success in a press release yesterday, saying it “shows strong, early support for the governor.”

“I’m happy to see such enthusiastic support for our campaign,” said Gov. Gregoire. “It proves that voters want us to continue to take on challenges and get results on the issues that matter to them most, like education, children’s healthcare and global climate change.”

She did raise a lot of money. But the single largest chunk, by far, came from the state Democratic Party. The press release said Gregoire raised $785,000 in May. Not mentioned was that $200,000 of that came from the state party. That is more a sign of the party’s commitment to her re-election than it is a measure of early support from voters.

And where did the state party get its money from in May? Mostly from two tribes. The party’s filings with the Public Disclosure Commission show $276,000 raised in April. Of that, $250,000 came from the Tulalip Tribes and the Swinomish Tribal Community.

Of the $2 million Gregoire reports raising since she formally kicked off her campaign, $511,000 has come from the state party.

Republican challenger Dino Rossi got some party help, too. Of the $701,000 he raised, $40,000 came from the state Republican Party. That’s all he’s gotten so far. That wasn’t mentioned in Rossi’s press release, either.

The state Republican Party doesn’t show any big May donations. But this week it did get $50,000 from the Republican Governor’s Association.

Both parties are sure to play major roles in the governor’s race. That makes it hard to know the real source of campaign money. We can see which groups make large donations to the parties, but of course it’s impossible to say precisely which dollars flowed through to the candidate. It’s all legal. But it leaves voters in the dark about important campaign finance details.

The Rossi campaign was quick to put out a press release this afternoon criticizing Gregoire for taking the party money and for donations she’s accepted from out of state residents.
But Rossi’s campaign is getting some outside help itself. And Rossi benefits from a different sort of loophole in the campaign law.
A political action committee called “It’s Time for a Change” paid $272,047 on May 28 for radio ads criticizing Gregoire on transportation issues. The ads feature women who complain that gas taxes went up but traffic hasn’t improved.

The ads are so-called independent expenditures. By law, an independent expenditure committee is prohibited from coordinating its activities with a candidate’s campaign. The Building Industry Association of Washington - the builders’ lobby whose ardor for Rossi is matched by its his animus toward Gregoire -- has made no secret of its control of that PAC.

So where did the money come from? Just as with Gregoire’s party money, it’s impossible to say precisely which dollars flow from one committee to another and what they pay for.

But on the same day It’s Time for a Change reported its ad spending, it showed it received $245,000 from ChangePAC, where all its money has come from.

And where does ChangePAC get its money? May 28 was a busy day. That’s also the day the Building Industry Association of Washington donated $245,000 to ChangePAC.

The BIAW already gave Rossi $3,000 directly to his campaign, which means it can only give another $200.

ChangePAC also gets money from others who have either hit their limits in donating to Rossi or are close, including Rossi campaign treasurer Howie Meadowcroft, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Washington State Farm Bureau.

The tribes that gave recently to the state Democratic Party are close to reaching the limit for donations directly to a candidate. So both sides have methods for spending money from maxed out donors.

It is all legal. And it all makes it a little harder to track donations and spending.

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