Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Some candidates are dependent on independent money

Independent money flowed into legislative races in Washington this year, like slippery oil, greasing some candidate's ride into office and causing others to slip and fall.

The numbers are mind-blowing.

Take the state House race in the 26th district between Democrat Kim Abel and Republican Janice Angel. While both candidates raised about the same amount of money on their own, around $170K, their independent expenditures, money raised often by political action committees for a candidate's benefit without their direct help, were drastically different.

Fifteen times more independent money ($60K), was spent opposing Abel than was spent supporting her, and Angel had 35 times more independent dollars ($147K) supporting her than Abel did. Can you guess who won this race? If you guessed Angel, supported in large part by People for Jobs and It's Time for a Change PACs, both associated with the building industry, you're correct.

The same thing happened over in the 6th district in the race between Democrat Donald Barlow and Republican Kevin Parker. No independent expenditures were spent against Parker, but over $172K was spent supporting him, while three times more was spent opposing Democrat Barlow than spent supporting him. The same PACs were spilling the grease in this race, with the same outcome, Parker beat Barlow by a margin of about 5%.

It's with great relief that I can say that money doesn't always buy elections. My own legislator's, Representative Roger Goodman's (D-45), challenger, Toby Nixon, was also heavily supported by People for Jobs. Nixon received three times the amount of independent support that Goodman did, but one difference between their race and the previous two I've mentioned is that no money was spent against Goodman. Abel and Barlow really took it in the shorts, while Goodman had less negative media to deal with than they did.

I'd also like to think that Goodman ran an excellent campaign with a lot of voter contact and a strong grassroots effort. Like another winner, Governor Gregoire, he had an enthusiastic troop of volunteers that worked to offset a lop-sided input of independent money benefiting his opponent.

The grassroots can claim many victories this year, but independent money is still a powerful force in state politics. Big donors get a big voice in determining election outcomes.


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