The future of local campaigns

Letter to the Editor.

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 3:20am
  • Opinion

During the homestretch of this year’s campaign season with sign waving and doorbelling from many of our local candidates, the Washington Supreme Court quietly handed down an opinion that will greatly impact future campaigns.

The court’s decision refers to a 1992 Initiative (I-134) that the people of Washington approved. With the passage of the initiative, related entities could no longer contribute to a campaign as if they were separate. In layman’s terms, that means an organization, such as a union, may not have multiple “locals” contribute to a candidate and pretend that they’re separate – allowing each of them to contribute up to the maximum amount. The union as a whole (all the locals put together) may contribute up to the maximum amount allowed by law ($675 for the primary, and $675 for the general election).

Unfortunately, the initiative was never allowed to work for the people of Washington. The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) interpreted its meaning in a way that allowed for multiple locals to all contribute up to the maximum amount (completely defeating the initiative’s purpose). Under the PDC’s false logic, I suppose a corporation could have attempted to contribute $675 to a candidate from each of its separate office locations. A corporation with 20 different locations could then contribute $13,500 instead of being limited to $675. This, however, is precisely what unions have been doing since the PDC “interpreted” I-134.

On Oct. 21, the buck stopped at the steps of the Washington Supreme Court. Eleven years after we approved I-134, it is finally allowed to work. The PDC was wrong. How will this affect a local campaign?

I looked at one state legislative campaign and the contributions from just one union to see how it would have impacted this campaign. In the “Jeff Griffin for State House” campaign, a firefighter union contributed $7,275 for the primary and $2,100 for the general election for a whopping total of $9,375 (more than 10 percent of all direct contributions to Mr. Griffin’s campaign). Under the “new” law (I-134 from 1992), that union would only be able to donate $675 in the primary and $675 in the general election. Mr. Griffin’s campaign would have $8,025 less than it has.

Mr. Griffin ran his campaign with the idea of representing us, “not special interests.” He should have taken the special interest’s extra $8,025 out of his campaign coffers. In the next election, thanks to the Washington Supreme Court, he will be required to.

Elliott Johnson

North Bend



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