Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of blog articles by University of Washington Tacoma students interning with The News Tribune. They are taking a closer look at campaign finance in the current election cycle.
Judging by direct contributions reported to the Public Disclosure Commission, Republican candidate Rob McKenna is the favorite among Pierce County business leaders.
The Weyerhaeuser family has donated exclusively to the McKenna campaign – to the tune of just over $16,000 (including money given in the company’s name). The Xitcos and Pupos of Associated Petroleum Products, along with the company and their families, gave the Republican candidate a combined $34,000. Local car dealerships, their owners and the owners’ families, from Titus-Will to the Korums, donated a combined $32,050 to McKenna. Other local figures similarly gave exclusively to McKenna, including the Tucci family ($5,850), MultiCare CEO Diane Cecchettini ($1,000) and TrueBlue’s Steven Cooper ($1,800).
Far fewer recognizable names in the local business community gave to Democrat Jay Inslee’s campaign and the contributions were generally much smaller. J.M. Martinac and his ship building company gave $2,150. William Korum of Puyallup Nissan was the sole Korum on Inslee’s roster with a contribution of $100. Despite the disparity among business figures on the Inslee ledger, the Democratic candidate has noticeably more support with figures in state and local government, education and the community services sector. He also has more small contributions overall – almost six times as much in amounts less than $25.
Very few gave to both sides and only one in our area gave a large amount equally. The Puyallup Tribe gave $3,300 to McKenna and Inslee alike.
- Lumber company McFarland Cascade and the owner’s family gave a combined $15,800 to McKenna.
- The Absher family, owners of a Puyallup construction company by that name, together gave $8,700 to McKenna.
- Melanie Dressel of Columbia Bank and Brown & Haley CEO Clair Pierson each gave $500 to McKenna.
- Attorney Paul Luvera and his wife gave a combined $4,050 to Inslee.
- Candidate for the open state senate seat in Tacoma’s 27th district, Jack Connelly, gave $3550 to Inslee. The other contender for that seat, Jeannie Darneille gave $100. (Many candidates for electoral office often give around this much to political allies as a symbol of support.)
- Rick Brandsma, President of Sound Credit Union, gave $2000 to Inslee.
Rob McKenna leads the county overall with a countywide total of $812,206.19, versus Jay Inslee’s Pierce County haul of $201,960.35. This wide discrepancy in the overall figure may be accounted for by Inslee’s late start in campaigning as the pattern appears in several other counties as well (notably, not King County). But many prominent local figures have already given near their maximum allowed contributions for the election cycle.
It should be noted that any analysis of data submitted to the Public Disclosure Commission is only as good as what the campaigns submit to the oversight agency. Although state regulations require “the occupation and the name and address of the person’s employer” for anyone who gives over $100, this data is not included for even many big money givers. This makes the process of associating individuals with their businesses more difficult in contribution lists that run well over 40,000 entries each. Most business owners tend to give in their own name, rather than through their companies. But without an arduous process of cross-referencing names and business records, something most voters aren’t likely to do, many significant funders might go unnoticed.
As a percentage of all cash raised by the campaigns, 2.2% of Inslee’s and fully 13% of McKenna’s money was subject to the more rigorous reporting required of donations exceeding $100 yet failed to properly account for the donors’ occupations and employers as required of donations over $100.