…And Weekly Reporting Starts This Week!: A Guide to the Month in Campaign Cash


(Note: This post has been updated to reflect reports filed after I posted Wednesday night.)

I’ll have a post or two about the two very different forums I was at this week (including one that went until nearly 10:00 last night) shortly, but first, a little campaign-finance update for the numbers nerds. Like last month, I’m focusing on the raw numbers and where they’re coming from, with a little analysis thrown in for kicks. Much as I’d like to start off with District 3, where Pamela Banks raised more than any candidate in any race so far (as I post this tonight, Sawant has still not reported her monthly totals), these races are in order, and there are nine of them, so we’ll start over in West Seattle and make our way back to the mainland.

A quick note before I dive in to the numbers: I’ve noticed that despite protests from some candidates against contemporaneous reporting—the practice of reporting contributions as they come in rather than keeping them secret until deadline day—seems to be becoming more common in these council races. If so, that’s a heartening sign—too often, campaigns eschew transparency in the interest of dropping a payload of contributions at the last minute, to shock and awe their competitors (and potential contributors, and the media) into thinking they’re a juggernaut.

These days, though, as more candidates embrace sharing information with the public, hoarding campaign finance data starts to look less like a smart strategy and more like dissembling. Proponents of this practice say people who release their information right away are trying to look stronger than they are; tell that to Michael Maddux, one of two contenders who could defeat incumbent council member Jean Godden in District 4, or Herbold, a frontrunner in the 1st, both of whom have been reporting contemporaneously.

On to the numbers.

In District 1, Shannon Braddock, an aide to King County Council member Joe McDermott, continued to outpace her likely general-election opponent Lisa Herbold, aide to outgoing city council member Nick Licata, in sheer monthly numbers, reporting $17,760 to Herbold’s $9,733, although both are close in total dollars raised and money in the bank. Braddock has raised $45,280 total, and has $16,173 on hand, while Herbold has raised $40,132 total, with $22,024 on hand. Third-place rival Brianna Thomas, a community organizer, brought in $3,427 for a totla of $22,576, with $10,050 on hand. Thomas had the lowest average contribution, at $103 (compared to Herbold’s $122 and Braddock’s $161), but Herbold had the most contributors overall—303, compared to Thomas’ 173 and Braddock’s 160.

Moving to Southeast Seattle, District 2 showed a widening gulf between incumbent Bruce Harrell and his main challenger, food-systems advocate Tammy Morales. Although Harrell hasn’t filed a report from May, even his early numbers ($7,100 reported on individual contribution reports) represent twice as much as Morales, who raised $3,474 in May for a total of $37,391 raised and just $7,067 on hand. As of the end of April, Harrell had $107,459 on hand. Josh Farris, the Occupy activist who recently got evicted from his apartment after a long dispute with his landlord (and subsequently bought a house), raised $5,557, for a total of $6,922 with $296 on hand.

Update: Harrell reported raising $23,346 in May, for a total raised of $158,888, and $120,660 on hand. Nearly a third (31%) of his contributions are from out of town, and he has 692 individual contributors. Maybe those fundraising numbers are one reason Morales has gone on the offensive against Harrell to a greater extent than she did initially—attacks sometimes work when money won’t.

Incumbent Kshama Sawant has not released numbers for May yet either, except $3,947 previously reported, so I’ll use her space to note something I’ve mentioned on Twitter before: Sawant takes every possible opportunity to point out that she is “the only candidate who does not take money from corporations or big business.” Which is true—and if some supremely misinformed big business ever offered her money, I’m sure Sawant would say no. But the thing is, neither do most other candidates, simply because big (and small) businesses don’t give much money directly to city council campaigns. Looking at Banks’ list of contributors, I see just a few companies, including: local consulting firm Strategies 360 ($700), food truck Jemil’s Big Easy ($699), billboard company Total Outdoor ($350), and a few local businesses that made smaller contributions.

Those low numbers don’t prove there isn’t massive corporate influence in council races, Sawant’s defenders have told me, because it’s the employees of the company who give, and that’s just as good as the companies contributing themselves. I won’t run through all the companies whose employers have given to supposed corporatist Banks (you can find the list here), but I will take a moment to list some of the corporations whose workers give to Sawant. Because if the assumption is that employees share the political views of their employers when they contribute, surely Sawant can be judged by the people signing her contributors’ paychecks. Among them: Microsoft. Zillow. Amazon. Tableau. The Canadian National Railway. US Bank. And Boeing.

The point here is that unless you can point to a specific instance or event in which workers were directly pressured to give to a certain candidate, it’s unfair to trash an opponent because of where his or her contributors work. Sticking strictly to outright contributions from corporations, Sawant simply doesn’t have a case against her “corporate elite” opponent Banks.

Banks, by the way, raised $42,690 in May, for a total of $91,123 total, with $60,589 on hand. The biggest employer of Banks’ contributors? The City of Seattle. 

Also of note: As of the end of April, 37 percent of Sawant’s money came from out of town, and 86 percent overall came from outside the council district she’s seeking to represent. For Banks, those numbers are 22 percent and 67 percent, respectively.

Update: Sawant filed her report this morning, the day after the deadline (in fact, during the last six months, she reported one or more days late at the end of four monthly reporting periods.) In May, she raised $32,303, for  total of $113,973, with $8,279 on hand. She’s spending a lot of the money she raises on handbills, ads, and campaign staff—eight campaign staffers, plus two campaign consultants (Jonathan Rosenblum and the ubiquitous Philip Locker). The location of her contributors (in the district, outside, or outside Seattle) remains unclear, as 27 percent have not yet been coded by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, byt right now 26 percent are listed as being out-of-town locations. 

(Morgan Beach raised $1,807, for a total of $12,314 with $2,825 on hand, and Rod Hearne has not yet reported.)

Update: Hearne reports raising $6,597 in May, bringing his total raised to $53,994, with $22,096 on hand.

In Northeast Seattle’s District 4, incumbent council member Godden had a limp month, to say the least, raising just $7,715 for a total of $79,113, with $19,539 on hand. That’s less than her opponent Johnson, who raised $9,695 in May (with a total of %56,649 and $19,811 on hand), and just above the other leading challenger, Michael Maddux, who raised $6,026 for a total 419,423, with $7,922 on hand. Another challenger, neighborhood activist Tony Provine, raised $4,067, for a total of $17,401 total (two-thirds of that from Provine itself), and was in the red by a whopping $8,922. Maddux’s average contribution was among the lowest in any race (meaning: Not driven up by maxed-out big donors), at $92 to Johnson’s $180 and Godden’s $221.

Hearne, Lee Carter, Banks, Beach, Sawant
Hearne, Lee Carter, Banks, Beach, Sawant

The crowded race for North Seattle’s District 5, where conventional wisdom has Methodist minister Sandy Brown handily winning the primary, has five candidates fighting for second place. This month, Brown brought in $11,580 for a total of $58,118, and has $3,705 on hand. Debadutta Dash, a first-generation immigrant who goes by “Dash” for campaign purposes, reported $13,362, bringing his total to $25,203, with $9,579 on hand—although 78 percent of that total was from out of town. Dash also reported hiring former Mike McGinn transportation advisor David Hiller as his consultant.

Meanwhile, scrappy housing activist Mercedes Elizalde raised just $1,921 this month, for a total of $6,432 with $2,104 on hand, which isn’t a lot, but I’m including her here because she’s often the most interesting person on stage at North Seattle campaign debates. Attorney Debora Juarez, another presumptive frontrunner, raised $16,825 for  total of $34,622 with $22,337 on hand, and Planned Parenthood organizer Halei Watkins raised $2,385 for a total of $13,064, with $1,850 on hand.

Burgess, Persak, Grant's chair, Roderick
Burgess, Persak, Grant’s chair, Roderick

Heading back southward, incumbent council member Mike O’Brien is still holding steady in the 6th, with $11,096 raised this past month for a total of $43,940, with a comfortable $27,642 on hand. His challenger, neighborhood activist Catherine Weatbrook, won’t win but she did bring in a respectable $5,970 this month, for a total of $19,051 with $5,974 on hand. (Has anyone told Weatbrook that O’Brien is the poster child for linkage fees, and has consistently supported imposing development taxes even higher than those the council is discussing?)

In the sprawling 7th, which includes her home neighborhood, downtown, incumbent council member Sally Bagshaw remained essentially unchallenged, with supposed big-money tech guy Gus Hartmann reporting no contributions so far (he does still have until midnight tonight), and Bagshaw reporting fundraising of $7,150 this month for a total of $62,307, with $16,739 on hand. Although Bagshaw literally represents the downtown establishment, a boogeyman districts backers hoped to vanquish, no one credible and well-financed ever stepped forward to challenge her. Hmm.

Incumbent Tim Burgess is seeking to stay on the council via the citywide Position 8, and he’s raising money like he isn’t taking it for granted. Burgess brought in $37,202 this month for a total of $183,745, with $138,838 on hand. That six-digit number is surely intimidating for challengers like John Roderick (who raised $11,739 for a total of $67,325, with $36,053 on hand), but it must be chilling for a third candidate, former Tenants Union director Jon Grant, who raised just $4,722 this month, for a total of $28,552 with $20,545 on hand.

A fourth candidate, longshoreman John Persak, reported $4,135 this month for a total of $27,270, with $9,285 on hand; a quarter of that money is from Persak himself. Of the four candidates, Roderick had the most individual contributions (606 to Burgess’ 502), but Burgess had the highest number of contributions from inside Seattle—87 percent. Half of Grant’s contributions were from out of town, as were 59 percent of Roderick’s.

Finally, in the race that perhaps offers the clearest contrast between the frontrunners, citywide Position 9, Central District neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd raised $5,876, for a total of $53,415 and $23,358 on hand, to Mayor Ed Murray’s former legal counsel, Lorena Gonzalez, who reported $23,415 this month for a total of $92,486, with $58,147 on hand. A third candidate, urban planner Alon Bassok, has not yet reported.

Update: Bassok reported raising $3,852 in May, for a total of $19,277, with $7,566 on hand.

3 thoughts on “…And Weekly Reporting Starts This Week!: A Guide to the Month in Campaign Cash”

  1. I think you screwed up Catherine Weatbrook’s cash on hand – it’s exactly the same as O’Brien’s and more than she raised.

    You’re also wrong to dismiss the Sawant campaign’s claims about donors and their corporate affiliations. While it’s certainly true that not everyone who works at a company like Microsoft donates to campaigns based on what the bosses want, it is also true that such practices do indeed happen. So to just dismiss the claim entirely as you do here is not an accurate reflection of how campaign finance works.

    This strikes me as a year where money isn’t nearly as important as grassroots support. I’m sure the challengers wish they all had more money, but as long as they wind up in the $40K-50K range they should be fine for the primary.

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