Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Big biz rolls out campaign dough despite weak ballot"

The August 14 edition of the Whitman County Gazette reported that figures from the Washington Public Disclosure Commission show that nearly $200,000 has been contributed to Washington 9th Legislative District political candidates thus far. Approximately $180,000 has been raised by Republicans, and around $5,000 by the Democrats and Green Party. That's quite a disparity. Depending on how things go in today's primary, much of that Republican surplus will likely be used in other districts statewide to help elect other Republicans.

That contribution disparity has been replayed in the Washington 5th Congressional District, prompting Gazette editor Jerry Jones to come to a conclusion similar to the one that I made recently about this year's race:
Motorists in Whitman County during the days before the state’s Aug. 19 mail-in primary deadline can’t help but notice the attractive campaign signs posted for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. She is seeking a third term as 5th district representative. The incumbent’s campaign seems to be picking up a full head of steam, and she’s predicted to nail down another term.

The Federal Elections Commission report as of July 31 puts the McMorris Rodgers campaign contributions at $1,083,675 with spending at $651,112.

A report in Sunday’s Lewiston Morning Tribune notes Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are among top level corporate executives who have sent in money. General Dynamics and R.J. Reynolds execs also have sent contributions.

McMorris Rodgers in previous races has been a tough campaigner who covers the miles in her district. With her experience and staff, she appears to be a strong favorite to win another term, despite running in a year when the Republicans are predicted to sustain a setback.

However, this time around the campaign is different. The 5th district incumbent is in a race which really isn’t a race when compared to the last two rounds. Although other names are on the ballot, McMorris Rodgers doesn’t have a strong opponent.

The last time around she was challenged by Peter Goldmark of Okanogan. Goldmark, a member of a family with a hallowed link to the state’s Democratic party, cranked up a strong campaign with TV ads featuring his ranching family mixed with the normal Democratic themes.

Goldmark is now challenging incumbent Doug Sutherland for commissioner of public lands. As a Democrat, he figures to get strong party support on the west side of the state. That outlook contrasts with the 5th district which now has a distinct GOP-leaning electorate.

Two years prior to the Goldmark challenge, McMorris faced Don Barbieri, Spokane hotel executive who plowed a lot of his own money into the campaign.

This time around, McMorris Rodgers faces a lineup of political lightweights. While the Goldmark and Barbieri campaigns enrolled strong backing from the Democrats, the foes this time around don’t have the same credentials, or the same kind of money.

According to the Spokesman Review, Mark Mays, a Spokane psychologist and attorney, is seen as the top opposition candidate for the Democrats. Mays, as of July 31 has raised $43,939 and spent $33,464. Those kind of numbers mean not a lot of campaign signs along Whitman County highways and byways.

Of course, veteran 5th district voters have seen past campaigns when the incumbent pulled out all the stops with strong financial backing while facing lightweight opposition. Democrat Tom Foley waged power campaigns against Republican challengers who lacked name recognition, money and support for their own party. Foley, who advanced up the power ladder to be speaker of the house, could expect a stack of corporate contributions and those were used.

A money flow to incumbents is one of the hard facts in today’s politics. Those corporate contributions on the McMorris Rodgers donor list shouldn’t be considered as special for the 5th district. The donations are also on the lists of candidates around the country. The money flow has been criticized, but it’s the way of doing business in a world where decisions in congress can impact corporations and where candidates now need a lot of money to campaign, even when they don’t have to campaign.

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

"Foley, who advanced up the power ladder to be speaker of the house, could expect a stack of corporate contributions and those were used."

Foley was thrown out on his ear because his position as Speaker of the House suddenly made him very visible and required that he choose sides. Did he carry water for his conservative constituents or the D.C. Democrats? Foley chose the liberal Democrats and the rest is history. I have never been more proud of Eastern Washington than when Foley was thrown out.