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Avalanche of corporate money begins flowing into Washington State initiative campaigns

Serious money is beginning to flow into campaign committees organized in support of — and in opposition to — initiatives that could be destined for the November 2018 general election ballot, reports recently filed with the PDC show.

Last year, for the first time in decades, no statewide initiatives appeared on Washington’s November general election ballot, and 2017 ended up being dominated by local and special elections, particularly the contentious state Senate race in Washington’s 45th Legislative District, won by Manka Dhingra.

But this year, there could be as many as six initiatives on the ballot, depending on what happens in the next few weeks. And that means there could be as many as twelve campaigns (six for, six against) active across the state by summer’s end.

Big money is already flowing into two of them: Initiative 1634 and Initiative 1631.

Initiative 1634, spearheaded by the soft drink industry (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and Red Bull) would bar local jurisdictions in Washington State from levying taxes on soda. Curiously, Seattle’s existing tax on sugary beverages would be allowed to stand, though the city would not be able to raise it further.

The four aforementioned companies have already dumped $1.8 million into the campaign’s coffers to get it started, with Coke responsible for approximately half of that sum and Pepsi responsible for a majority of the other half.

Here’s a summary of Big Soda’s financial activity in support of the campaign:

NameCityStateTypeAmount
THE COCA-COLA COMPANYATLANTAGACash$896,523.74
PEPSICO, INC.PURCHASENYCash$675,960.00
DR PEPPER SNAPPLE GROUP, INC.PLANOTXCash$280,486.88
RED BULL NORTH AMERICASANTA MONICACACash$22,029.38

As you can see, it’s all corporate money. And this is only the beginning. Eight years ago, Big Soda bankrolled Initiative 1107, plowing millions into a campaign to overturn tax increases on soda, bottled water, and chewing gum. They won.

Now they’re back for a second round.

Like in 2010, Big Soda will likely be spending millions upon millions more to peddle this initiative once they’ve purchased a spot on the November ballot for it.

The campaign’s expenditures show that a large number of firms and vendors have already been retained to work on the signature drive, market the initiative to voters during and after the signature drive, or provide legal assistance:

  • Dewey Square Group;
  • AAP Holding Company;
  • MCMI, LLC;
  • The Hicks Group;
  • David Binder Research;
  • Terra Strategies, LLC;
  • Northwest Communications, Inc.;
  • Bluefront Strategies (a division of DDC Advocacy);
  • Desler Communications;
  • TargetPoint Consulting;
  • Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP.

The campaign is disingenuously called “Yes! to Affordable Groceries (See Email For Rest of Name)”. And no — I’m not joking — that’s actually what the committee shows up as on the PDC website, as you can see here.

An opposition campaign to Initiative 1634 has yet to form, but one will be needed, because this measure is almost certainly going to qualify.

Meanwhile, Big Oil is getting ready to spend megabucks against Initiative 1631, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy-backed measure that aims to put a price on pollution, something that is very necessary and long overdue.

The “NO on 1631 (Sponsored by Western States Petroleum Association)” committee on Thursday collectively reported a quarter of a million dollars in pledges from the companies with major refinery operations in Washington State: Andeavor, BP, Shell, U.S. Oil, and Philips 66. Some of these companies also helped underwrite Tim Eyman’s unconstitutional I-1053 and I-1185 several years ago.

Aside from those pledges, the committee also has $3,794.82 in in-kind contributions from the Western States Petroleum Association.

Contributor nameReceipt dateElectionAmount
ANDEAVOR04/25/2018Full election cycle$35,137.25
BP04/25/2018Full election cycle$85,461.5
CHEVRON CORPORATION04/25/2018Full election cycle$16,529.25
PHILLIPS 6604/25/2018Full election cycle$4,3415
SHELL OIL PRODUCTS, USA04/25/2018Full election cycle$56,826.5
U.S. OIL & REFINING COMPANY04/25/2018Full election cycle$12,630.75

These pledges are merely a harbinger of what is to come. In the end, upwards of $20 million could be spent by the oil companies in an attempt to defeat I-1631.

The campaign in favor of I-1631, which NPI is a part of, has raised $661,951.47 to date, and spent $389,555.77, with about half of its donations coming from The Nature Conservancy. The Washington State Labor Council, Washington Environmental Council, Washington Conservation Voters, and Peter Goldman and Martha Kongsgaard are also major contributors to the campaign.

To be certified for the November 2018 ballot, initiative petitions must contain valid signatures from at least 259,622 registered voters and be submitted no later than 5:00 PM on July 6th, 2018. That’s less than seven weeks from now.

But a signature drive can easily take place within the span of seven weeks when there is plenty of money available to pay workers to circulate petitions.


One Comment

  1. Don Steinke
    Posted May 14th, 2018 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

    Please go to Yeson1631 and volunteer to help. I’m a volunteer and have collected 1200 signatures so far and our coalition has 50,000 statewide, but we need to step up the effort.

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