October 25, 2006
Liberal PACs not yet investing much in Esser race

A while back David Postman reported on liberal PACs lining up to take a swing at state Senator Luke Esser during this campaign season. While the reporting is true, the potential impact of the move should strike observers as odd since two of the largest typical local funders of such efforts, SEIU and the WA Conservation Voters, are backing Esser. Thus, some current examination of efforts against Esser is in order.

In the primary season, both groups above joined out-of-state liberal interests in spending over $213,000 (according to PDC filings) to defeat state Sen. Tim Sheldon, through the Working Families Who Have Had Enough PAC. They of course failed, though such investments are not uncommon. When SEIU tried to topple state Rep. and chair of the House Appropriations Committee Helen Sommers in a 2004 Democratic primary the group alone spent more than $200,000 on the effort. Indeed, SEIU and WA Conservation Voters were two of the largest in-state donors to the campaign to knock off Sheldon.

So, who is actually spending money to defeat Esser with these two groups on the other side? Not much according to PDC filings.

Postman's original coverage about the Ceasefire Action Committee shows a TV ad they're running, but the ad itself has a limited reach. They've reported $5,000 worth of TV advertising against Esser thus far, but it's being spent without any efficiency since the ad buys are on KING 5 and KONG TV. Even with cherry picking the shows on which the ad runs as Postman notes, $5,000 doesn't buy many ads (consider the millions being spent by all comers in the Reichert-Burner race to achieve necessary market saturation). And, certainly a media buy for the entire Seattle media market, as opposed to say a localized cable buy, isn't an efficient way to reach the voters in one legislative district. Based on current PDC reports, Ceasefire appears to have maybe another $7,500 to spend on the race, which if spent in the same inefficient manner is a blessing to Esser, rather than targeted direct mail that might actually impact matters.

Meanwhile, the other liberal group trying to defeat the incumbent is the Save the 48th PAC. They don't appear to be as serious a player as the six-figure sums seen in other legislative uprisings. As of this typing, PDC filings show them having raised less than $36,000, a quarter of which is from the Equal Rights WA PAC, which also invested heavily against Sheldon. Moreover, $5,000 of that money has already been contributed to the Ceasefire Action Committee (and is included in the figures above showing that committee's limited purchasing power).

Taken together, these two groups are not serious players in a race where both candidates are likely to spend more than $600,000 combined (both are approaching $300,000 raised based on current PDC reports). Moreover, SEIU and WA Conservation Voters are likely to weigh in with independent expenditures of their own for Esser. They may not invest as much as their priority races, but based on past experience even modest spending by those groups would cancel out the impact of the two liberal PACs currently working against Esser.

All that being said, Rodney Tom's list of endorsements include a number of organizations like NARAL and WEA who are known to pump money into target races. Moreover, one can certainly expect conservative groups to weigh in on Esser's side too. Even with muted liberal PAC spending at this juncture, this still shapes up to be a spendy race. I'll endeavor to keep reporting relevant independent expenditures as they unfold.

UPDATE: Reference to the Machinists removed from 2nd to last paragraph. Since they've actually co-endorsed in this race they're highly unlikely to do any independent expenditures.

Posted by Eric Earling at October 25, 2006 07:46 AM | Email This
1. Thanks, Eric. I am seeing a whole new side of politics and their campaigns this season. Your reporting is one of the good reasons.

Posted by: swatter on October 25, 2006 08:05 AM
2. Rodney is sure to win the Weasle vote and support. Rarely in my years of political involvement have I ever met and had the displeasure and dissatisfaction to be represented by such a wormy character. I've personally debated him on issues he was clearly in the wrong on (he was a staunch supporter of the 9.5 gas tax increase and thinks it should be higher) and seen him in action legislatively. Trust me people of the 48th, Rodney Tom is not the kind of person we need (much less want) representing us in Olympia. (For the sake of disclosure: I have always been a supporter of Luke's, have worked on his campaigns, have donated funds to him, will do so again this evening, and have challenged him openly when I felt he was wrong on an issue.) The way the WA Dem party has run hit after hit, and lie after lie about Luke speaks to the character of Rodney and the party. Personally, it leaves a taste of bile in my throat and I want spew it and them out of my mouth. Do yourself a favor, don't give it a second thought. Luke Esser is the right candidate in the 48th. Send him back to Olympia to continue the superb job he's been doing.

Posted by: Jamie Walker on October 25, 2006 09:15 AM
3. Another local PAC that shouldn't be overlooked is The Roosevelt Fund. This fund is at least operated if not "owned" by Jason Bennett, the owner of the Democrat political consulting firm Argo Strategies. In fact the PDC address and phone numbers are the same. They have raised nearly $600,000 and while they have made $1,400 contributions to a number of Democrats their big bucks have been used to run hit pieces on Esser, Toby Nixon and Mike Riley in the 47th.

This tells me that they have as much concern about Riley winning as they do about Nixon and Esser. The pieces essentially tell voters that the target candidates want to destroy Washington Education. Seems to me the Democrats already did a pretty good job of that.

If you dig through the different big PACs you see that they not only draw contributions from the same big donors, labor unions and the Democrat machine but they also contribute to each other. The Roosevelt Fund, Naral, Planned Parenthood and the Harry Truman Fund are all intertwined. What is apparent here is that this method allows the rich Democrats (and you thought it was the Republicans who were rich?) to deliver far more than then miniumum contribution to a candidate.

For example, if someone contributes the maximum $1,400 to a candidate they can then give a very large contribution to one or more PACs they know will either support that candidate with ANOTHER $1,400 contribution or use the money to hit the opponent.

Take Claudia Kauffman in the 47th. She received a $1,400 contribution from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe (as well as seemingly every other tribe in the region). The Roosevelt fund gave her another $1,400 and, judging from the amount spent on Nixon and Esser, has probably spent about $22,000 on the hit ads against Mike Riley, her opponent. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe has given $35,000 to the Roosevelt Fund.

The Roosevelt Fund also contributed $50,000+ to the WA State Democrat Party, about $10,000 a month to the Senate Democrat Campaign Committee and $3,500 to the 47th District Democrats as well as several other districts.

Add more to the incest: Argo Strategies is the Policial consultant for Claudia Kauffman.

They are probably not finished yet. They still have about $150,000 to work with.

In many of the races the Republican is lucky to be able to raise 1/3rd as much as the Democrat. When you toss in the special interest money it is probably 5 or 10 times the expenditure on the Democrat side. Small wonder the Democrats control this state. As far as I know there is no equivalent to the Roosevelt Fund on the Republican side. That will continue until we find a way to level "the playing field".

Posted by: Orin Wells on October 25, 2006 10:01 AM
4. The Roosevelt Fund is an arm of the Senate Democrats; the Harry Truman Fund is an arm of the House Democrats; for future reference, the Republican counterparts are The Leadership Council for the Senate Republicans and the Speakers Roundtable for the House Republicans.

In addition to SEIU and WA Conservation Voters, the tribes are supporting Luke Esser- Rodney Tom had a habit of blasting the tribes in floor speeches and then wonders why they turned a cold shoulder his way.

But the Senate Democrats, through both the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee and the Roosevelt Fund have an awful lot of money to dump into close Senate races in the last two weeks- and a lot of those funds came from the business community, including $20,000 from Philip Morris, $10,000 from the Restaurant Association, $7,500 from Qwest, and $5,000 each from Bank of America,Holland America, Microsoft, Puget Sound Energy, and Safeco (among others).

And all of those business contributions to Democrats running unopposed were transferred into these campaign accounts, too.

If Esser (or Nixon) loses, business will have only itself to blame, for funding the opposition.

Posted by: Captain Wierd on October 25, 2006 10:26 AM
5. The Machinists endorsed Rodney. Luke too it appears. Very doubtful they'd spend money on one over the other with a dual endorsement Eric.

Posted by: Bell Dud on October 25, 2006 01:52 PM
6. Bell Dud - good catch on the Machinists co-endorsement, and you're right on their potential involvement based on that fact. However, I think my overall point about the impact of SEIU and the WA Conservation Voters being on Esser's side still stands.

Orin - Capt. Weird is correct, the Roosevelt Fund is just an extension of the Dem. party, evident for example in the that $200,000 of the nearly $800,000 they've raised comes from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Washington, DC. As such, I'm not including their expenditures against Esser, which will be signficant, since both parties will be weighing in on the race. The point is, the horde of other liberal interests typically present in such a race is nowhere to be found.

Posted by: Eric Earling on October 25, 2006 06:33 PM
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