Readers of The Seattle Times print editions Thursday morning were greeted with more full-page political ads for candidates the newspaper’s editorial board has endorsed.
But these new ads — for Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican Attorney General candidate Reagan Dunn — are different from the controversial spots for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and Referendum 74 that have led to criticism from journalism experts, as well as reader and news staff protests over the paper becoming a campaign donor.
The Seattle Times Co. paid for the McKenna and Ref. 74 ads as part of what company officials said was a pilot project to demonstrate the power of print advertising and attract more political-ad revenue.
However, Thursday’s full-page ads for Dunn and Cantwell ads were purchased by the state Republican Party and the Cantwell campaign, respectively.
Kelly Steele, a Cantwell campaign spokesperson, said the decision to buy the Cantwell ads was made in late September, well before the Times launched its McKenna and R-74 ad campaigns. The purchase was part of a package deal of ads in newspapers across the state – a deal that charged $100,000 to place five days of ads in newspapers statewide.
“The Cantwell campaign accepted the offer and committed to running print ads via email on September 25th. The commitment was made long before, and with no knowledge of, the Times’ decision to run ads supporting Republican Rob McKenna,” Steele said in an email.
The Dunn campaign also decided months ago to spend some money on newspaper advertising, according to state Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur, though he did not know when contracts were signed.
Times spokesperson Jill Mackie said the newspaper’s own ad campaign was launched separately and without certainty that the Cantwell and Dunn ads were coming.
The Cantwell ads, she said, were part of a statewide newspaper advertising project managed by Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, the association that represents all 22 daily newspapers in the state.