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Firefighters, other unions are top contributors to Tacoma candidates

Post by David Wickert on Oct. 6, 2009 at 1:40 pm with 12 Comments »
October 7, 2009 5:44 pm

firefightersI’ve been looking at campaign contributions to Tacoma candidates in recent elections. One things stands out: public employee unions dominate the list of top contributors.

An analysis of state contribution records shows unions representing city employees have given more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to Tacoma candidates since the 2003 elections. Five city employee unions are among the top 10 contributors to city candidates since 2003. (See the top 10 list below).

Leading the way is the Tacoma Professional Firefighters Union, which has given nearly $30,000 to city council and mayoral candidates. The union is the top contributor to Tacoma candidates in recent elections.

The Tacoma Police Union is second among all contributors, giving $23,500. Other top contributors in recent elections include the local Master Builders Association, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Simpson Investment Co.

Several elected officials say public employee unions – especially the firefighters – are the most influential group in Tacoma politics. We’ve got calls in to the firefighter and police unions. But I’m also interested in speaking with individual Tacoma firefighters and police officers. What are the city issues you care about? What do you look for in candidates? What do you hope your contributions will accomplish? Give me a call at 253-274-7341 or e-mail me at david.wickert@thenewstribune.com.

Below is the list of top 10 contributors to Tacoma council and mayoral candidates from the 2003 election cycle through early September of this year.

Tacoma Professional Firefighters Union $29,421
Tacoma Police Union $23,500
Master Builders Association $19,100
Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $17,783
Simpson Investment Co. $17,200
Weyerhaeuser family $14,275
Joint Labor Committee of Tacoma $13,000
Lea Armstrong, CEO of Armstrong Uniserve Inc. $10,900
Teamsters Union $10,850
Rusty George Design $9,600

The list doesn’t include candidates who sank money into their own campaigns (Marty Campbell, for example, has contributed more than $17,000 to his own campaigns, mostly in the form of in-kind contributions of office space at his Jefferson Street business).

Also, the contributions above are probably incomplete. State laws have changed over time. Candidates who didn’t raise a certain amount of money didn’t have to file detailed contribution reports, so any contributions they received aren’t included. Also, the union contributions don’t count money contributed by individual members. And the figures for most of the businesses on the list don’t include contributions from company executives. Still, this is about as close to a definitive list of top contributors as you can get.

Want more information? Here’s an Excel spreadsheet detailing all of the contributions from the top 10 contributors above.

A couple of notes on the spreadsheet: if the “form type” listed on the contribution is C3, it’s a cash contribution. If the form type is C4, it’s an in-kind contribution. Also, you’ll notice there are two “contributor” columns. The first is the contributor name as reported on the candidates’ contribution disclosure forms. I created the second “contributor” column to standardize the names of the institution making the contribution.

Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. Well, guess it shows Tacoma fire is way over paid……but its the law..they get their raises and perks come hell or high water..or the city will hear about it!!! Stealing from all the poor for them selves….

  2. TacomaBorn says:

    Yes, many of these donations show the unions what their “Favorite” people to be in office

  3. truthslayer says:

    Tacoma Firefighters have contributed 30k in 7 years. That’s like $4500 a year, or roughly $11 per firefighter a year. Wow! This is a major scoop.

  4. jimkingjr says:

    That those whose livelihoods are most impacted are the ones to contribute to local politics should not be a surprise.

  5. tree_guy says:

    If you vote for a candidate who has taken a contribution or an endorsement from a labor union then don’t be surprised if the cost of government services or the level of prevailing wages takes an upward swing.

  6. In one side and out the other. The purpose of governments and non-profits is jobs.

  7. I wish you’d do the top 50 contributors and see what that looks like. Also an interactive map of councilmanic districts.

  8. David Wickert says:

    Fantum: your suggestion for a top 50 contributors list with an interactive map is a great idea. Ultimately, my goal is to create a database of contributions to all Pierce County elected offices (city, county, school board, etc.) that people can search. For a lot of technical reasons, it’s a pretty time-consuming job. Here’s one example: Candidate A gets a $1,000 contribution from “Joe Smith.” Candidate B gets a $1,000 contribution from “Joseph Smith.” Candidate C gets a $1,000 contribution from “Joseph A Smith.” And so on. Without the contributor’s address (not available in the searchable data on the PDC web site but available in the database I requested from the agency), you can never be sure those contributors are one and the same. I’ll keep working and hope to produce something close to a definitive local contributions database in a few months.

  9. Typical union behavior. Screw the little guy, take his money, and line the pockets of your cronies so you can do it again next year. Then, claim you are for the little guy.

    Want to save the economy in one day? Bust up unions forever. (Start with government employees.) When they protest, fire them and take away their pensions and benefits, rehire from the millions of unemployed at realistic wages.

  10. greenman42 says:

    Mr Wickert: do you think it’s relevant where contributors live/work? for example, if a candidate got half their contributions from people living outside the jurisdiction, should that be of interest to voters?

  11. David Wickert says:

    Greenman, it’s a good question – one that some are raising about Keven Rojecki. Ultimately, voters must decide whether it’s relevant.

  12. ClownPosse says:

    Princess Julie: Huge “fan” of Tacoma FD !

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