A gusher of red from a soda can
A gusher of red from a soda can (Photo: LenaLandmine)

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:


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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “Avalanche of corporate money begins flowing into Washington State initiative campaigns”

  1. 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.

Comments are closed.