Lawmakers get donations from opponents | Jerry Cornfield

The votes are counted, but contributions continue flowing to participants in this year’s election.

The votes are counted, but contributions continue flowing to participants in this year’s election.

Tens of thousands of dollars in political donations have been reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission ahead of next week’s deadline for candidates and party committees to reveal their receipts for November.

Early filings show that victors are reaping some nice spoils, especially on the Republican side of the aisle.

State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who won re-election by defeating a Republican state representative, collected nearly $10,000 from a fundraiser in Olympia put on by a cadre of longtime lobbyists.

And The Leadership Council, a fund controlled by the Senate Republican Caucus, had hauled in $127,550 through Monday. That will replenish a cache depleted by the spending of $3 million to defend incumbents and add a 25th member to secure the majority in the Senate.

A similar scenario is unfolding in the House, where Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, ran unopposed yet five donors delivered unsolicited checks adding up to $3,250.

And the Reagan Fund, which Kristiansen and his fellow caucus leaders control, has garnered $47,500 since the election, in which Republicans gained four seats in the House.

One reason some lawmakers — not all — are out asking for money is that the rising cost of campaigns creates an insatiable need for it.

Also, state law bans lawmakers and statewide officials like the governor from political fundraising within 30 days of a legislative session. That’s inspired many to get what they can through solicitation letters and fundraisers before the freeze sets in Dec. 12.

Why individuals and interest groups respond with post-election contributions is the other side of the equation.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a longtime supporter wanting to donate one more time, like a congratulatory pat on the back.

More often, if the donor is an active participant in politics and intends to walk the hallways of the Capitol during the upcoming session, it is prudent to acknowledge a lawmaker’s electoral success with a contribution.

Consider the action of Stand for Children in Washington, an influential voice in the state’s education reform movement.

The group gave $950 to Roach on Nov. 21, even though it endorsed her opponent in the election. If the group did not want to see her win this time, why would it provide funds it knows will go to help jump-start her next campaign?

“Sen. Roach invited us to a post-election fundraiser, and we participated since she has been aligned with us most of the time over the years,” policy director Dave Powell wrote in an email.

And there’s SEIU Healthcare 775NW, the statewide union for thousands of long-term care workers in Washington. It spent nearly $450,000 in this election — most of it trying to elect Democrats.

The organization gave $20,000 to the Leadership Council in mid-October and $10,000 to the Reagan Fund on Nov. 21, its only contributions to the GOP committees this cycle. By comparison, it gave $162,500 to Democratic counterparts in the House and Senate.

“We have over the years given financial support to all four caucuses as part of our ongoing efforts to build relationships with legislators of both parties and to advocate for quality supports and services for older adults and people with disabilities,” spokesman Jackson Holtz explained in an email.

Corporations and business associations are doing it, too. Alaska Airlines, for example, wrote its first check to the Reagan Fund after the election, and it was for $10,000. Farmers Insurance Group has written two checks, totaling $80,000, to the Leadership Council.

So while the season of giving to politicians might be drawing to an end, there seem to be plenty of people — and companies — hoping to receive something in return soon.

 

Jerry Cornfield is a political reporter who covers Olympia for The Daily Herald in Everett, which is among the Washington state newspapers in the Sound Publishing group. He can be contacted at jcornfield@heraldnet.com.


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