This post has been updated.
Two new Seattle Chamber of Commerce-funded independent expenditure groups, People for Shannon and People for Rob, have spent $44,000 each on media buys (presumably cable TV ads) for Shannon Braddock and Rob Johnson. The $88,000 total spend comes on top of the $48,000 the national Realtors Association dropped on long-shot North Seattle candidate Kris Kris M. Lethin a few days ago. (Read Lethin’s reaction when I told him about that surprise gift here.) Johnson is also, as of 5:00 this evening, the beneficiary of a $20,000 spend by the Washington Restaurant Association PAC.
Additionally, a group calling itself “NW Tribes for Debora,” funded by the Northwest Tribal PAC, has reported spending $15,000 to support Debora Juarez, a frontrunner in North Seattle’s District 5.
The ad buys, both funded by the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), which endorsed both Braddock and Johnson, make one thing abundantly clear: The influence of money in Seattle elections isn’t going away. If anything, it’s getting more explicit and more potent.
One argument for district elections was that smaller geographical districts would reduce the need for candidates to raise so much money (in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars) to communicate with voters and get elected. While this is somewhat true for individual candidates (so far, Johnson has raised $77,000 so far and Braddock has raised $59,000, though those numbers are difficult to compare to previous campaigns because of the sheer number of candidates and the unprecedented nature of this election), the independent expenditures more than make up for any fundraising disparity between, say, 2013 and now.
In fact, it’s likely that big IEs like these will become more common under the district system. With fewer eyeballs to purchase, a targeted IE can go further in a district than it could under the previous citywide system, giving moneyed interests more bang for their buck than they ever had trying to influence elections citywide. Seattle’s election laws allow unlimited independent expenditures.
Also worth noting: Both Screen Strategies Media, the East Coast film company that’s doing the ads, and Blue Wave Partners, the fundraising firm associated with both IE groups, are closely affiliated with Mayor Ed Murray. Screen Strategies did several cable TV ads for Murray back in 2013, and Blue Wave is Murray’s longtime fundraising firm. Murray has endorsed Johnson’s opponent, incumbent council member Jean Godden, so it’s interesting to see two firms associated with the mayor doing work for one of Godden’s top opponents.