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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

October 14, 2014 at 6:20 PM

How a California billionaire gets his money into a Washington Senate campaign

In late September, political reporter Jim Brunner wrote about how California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer had decided to drop $1 million into Washington state’s elections to help Democrats regain control of the state Senate.

One of ways the Steyer money is being used is to try to unseat Republican Sen. Andy Hill in the 45th District. Hill, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee and represents Redmond, Kirkland and Duvall, is a top target for Democrats this cycle. Hill’s Democratic challenger, Matt Isenhower, is a retired naval officer mounting a credible campaign.

Steyer’s money comes into the state through an independent spending committee called NextGen Climate Action Committee, the name of which, in order to make things clear, continues: Washington Sponsored by Tom Steyer.

Now, here’s where it gets complicated.

One chunk of Steyer money has reached the 45th District campaign through $210,000 in independent expenditures. This money, in other words, didn’t go to Isenhower’s campaign, but paid for door knockers in the district to ring bells both in favor of Isenhower ($105,000) and against Hill ($105,000). All of that money was reported spent by the Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund on Oct. 10, according to campaign filings. That happens to be the same day the action fund received $750,000 from Steyer’s NextGen committee.

Confusing? Yes. But we’re not done.

Another political action committee receiving Steyer’s money is the Eastside Integrity PAC, which reported spending $60,000 on Sept. 30 on broadcast ads supporting Isenhower. On Sept. 17, Eastside Integrity PAC reported receiving a $50,000 contribution from the Kennedy Fund, a political committee that backs Democrats in state Senate races. And the Kennedy Fund, that very same Sept. 17, received $50,000 from Steyer’s NextGen Action Committee.

It’s worth mentioning that the Republican party is matching Steyer’s efforts. A spending committee called the Good Government Leadership Council has spent over $135,000 on independent spending against Isenhower. The Good Government Leadership Council is funded wholly by another political committee, The Leadership Council, which is associated with the Senate Republican Campaign Committee (SRCC). The SRCC has also given $77,000 directly to Hill’s campaign.

While both campaigns are raising large sums, Hill has raised twice as much as money as Isenhower. To date, Hill has raised $820,00, according to campaign records, to Isenhower’s $385,000.



Comments | More in 2014 elections, State legislative races, State Legislature | Topics: 2014 elections, andy hill, Matt Isenhower


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