Joel Connelly, of the Seattle Post Intelligencer, ran a story this morning about PAC spending.
I would have loved to have covered this story myself, but my reputation and credibility have been trashed by folks like Sam Taylor, over at the Bellingham Herald and his good friend and blogging buddy, (former Bellingham Herald Community Editorial Board member), Greg Kirsch, (who loves to do his hatchet work anonymously on blogs and on the Herald's electronic comment pages).
Both Taylor and Kirsch are long time supporters of Mayor Dan Pike, a candidate that has been the subject of a number of public disclosure investigations at both the state and federal level.
The Realtor complaint was the second complaint filed against Mr. Pike. Two federal complaints are still under investigation.
According to Tim Johnson, Editor of the Cascadia Weekly, http://www.cascadiaweekly.com/pdfs/issues/200839.pdf, Mayor Pike was recently ordered by the PDC to report $19,038.00 for in-kind contributions he received from the Realtor's Quality of Life PAC during the last two weeks of the 2007 election.
I hope Sam Crawford received the same request in regards to his previously unreported contributions of $12,875. By law, (RCW 42.17) voters have a right to know all sources of a candidate's contributions before the election.
Thanks, Joel, (and Tim Johnson) for taking the time to educate the public regarding the importance of campaign finance laws!
Here's Joel's article -- normally I only print excerpts and provide links to articles, but today, (forgive me Joel), I have to post the entire article. The link to the original article is posted below. (I highlighted the sections that are in bold).
"IN ITS SECOND sharply critical investigative report in three weeks, the Public Disclosure Commission staff found that a big-spending business political action committee flagrantly violated state law.
The commission will take up, at its Thursday meeting, how the Realtors Quality of Life PAC spent $46,650 on seven mailers supporting Whatcom County candidates in the closing days of the 2007 campaign and shelled out $10,000 for a TV ad.
The watchdog agency has, if it chooses, found a strategic time to bare its teeth.
The Realtors Quality of Life PAC is currently sitting on a $708,000 war chest.
The Washington Association of Realtors' legislative committee wants to pour $500,000 into "issues advertising" to "educate voters" in the next month.
"All expenditures under this motion must not advocate the election or defeat of a candidate for public office to be consistent with (federal and state) regulations," says the panel's memo.
Ignore the fanny-covering language. The real purpose of the "education" campaign would be to defeat Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Other people are engaged in similar "education."
Just last Friday, Attorney General Rob McKenna filed civil complaints against the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Master Builders of King and Snohomish Counties.
The complaints followed findings by the PDC staff of "apparent multiple violations" of finance law in funneling money to their anti-Gregoire campaign.
Investigations of builders and Realtors should not be dismissed as political junkie stuff.
Nor should the public believe the customary claims -- of those caught -- that violations are "bookkeeping errors." Guys in $2,000 suits have a curious way of channeling Pinocchio.
A lot of money is in them thar books.
As the commission notes, the Realtors' PAC spent $339,769 for "independent" expenditures in the 2004 cycle, $38,386 in 2005 local elections, $359,940 "independently" in 2006, and made $105,000 in "independent expenditures" (out of total spending of $230,808) in local elections last year.
Big bucks are a clue to officeholders' alliances, growth management votes, and -- if not of politicians being bought -- at least who's being rented.
"Follow the money and the issues the money is chasing," former U.S. Rep. Jolene Unsoeld said in receiving an award last week from the Coalition for Open Government.
If you get to know who really pays for the "hit" pieces in your mailbox, it can be an important factor in how you vote.
In Whatcom County, the disclosure commission found, the Realtors Quality of Life PAC "did not identify the candidates benefitting from the in-kind expenditures and did not provide the required itemization of costs attributable to each mailer."
The final itemization of expenditures was provided 156 days late, on April 3, 2008.
The last day for making unlimited giving to local candidates for the 2007 general election was Oct. 15, 2007. After that, money and in-kind giving was limited to $5,000 in the aggregate.
"The mailings were delivered to the public between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2, 2007. The Washington Realtors Quality of Life did not cancel or reduce the size of the mailings to ensure that the value of the in-kind contributions ... was limited to $5,000," the commission staff reported.
Take an electronic trip to the Public Disclosure Commission's much-improved Web site. Good-government groups are straightforward in where the money has come from, and where it went.
With business committees, however, there are endless cutouts. They spawn front groups in numbers that rival days when the Soviet Communist Party nurtured "peace" committees.
The Affordable Housing Council is another Realtor group. Its latest filing shows $235,000 in donations, $195,285 in expenditures. A majority of the dough comes in two big gifts, $120,000 from the BIAW and $60,000 from the Olympia Master Builders.
Of the expenditures, $185,000 has gone to something called Progress for Our Community, which in turn has given $160,000 to People's Choice for Leadership. The revealing hint comes in a $38,000 allocation to Dresner Wickers & Assoc., a top Republican direct-mail outfit.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce used a front -- the Voters Education Committee -- to channel $1.5 million to smear ex-Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn when she ran for attorney general in 2004.
The committee revealed its "donation" long after the election. The Chamber of Commerce refused to name its donors, saying the money was not specifically raised to fight Senn.
Homebuilders, contractors, and Realtors aren't just reactionary robots. They ought to demand accountability from those manipulating their money.
State Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, himself in the real estate business, unloaded when I talked to him earlier this week.
"There's a huge disconnect between the Realtors Quality of Life PAC and the real estate agent out on the street," Tom said.
"They don't want their members to know how they're spending the money." http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/connelly/380283_Joel24.html
By JOEL CONNELLY P-I COLUMNIST
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Last updated September 23, 2008 11:22 p.m. PT