7 ways people with money are trying to sway your vote in Washington state | KUOW News and Information

7 ways people with money are trying to sway your vote in Washington state

Sep 7, 2016

Close to $100 million has gone into this year's elections in Washington state so far, all aiming to influence you and your neighbors' votes.

That's just one of the things your official voters' guide won't tell you, but KUOW's new Field Guide to Influence will. The Field Guide lets you see the largely hidden actors trying to sway your vote behind the scenes.

While the race for governor is the most expensive so far, big money is pouring into obscure races as well.

With the Field Guide, we've turned up some surprising nuggets on the people who are using their dollars to try to sway your vote. Here are seven. We hope you'll bounce around the Field Guide, too, and tell us what stories of influence we may have overlooked.

#1 Top moneymakers

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray have made it rain more money than any other politicians in Washington state. Each has raised $8 million in their efforts to get re-elected. Inslee has out-fundraised Republican challenger Bill Bryant 3 to 1; Murray has hauled in 26 times more cash than her Republican challenger, Chris Vance.

While money is no guarantee of victory, it's almost unheard of for a challenger to win despite being outspent by such margins.

#2 Billionaires for gun control

The priciest ballot initiative so far, with $3.2 million in funding, is the billionaire-fueled gun-control measure I-1491. It would prevent people found by a judge to be a risk to themselves or others from buying or keeping guns.

Unlike elections for office, there are no cash limits on initiative campaigns, and individual contributions in the tens of thousands of dollars are not uncommon.

A group funded by New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg is running the I-1491 campaign; local business magnates Nick Hanauer, Steve Ballmer and Paul Allen have also bankrolled the measure with six-figure contributions. No committee has organized to oppose I-1491; and no money has been raised or spent to fight the measure.

In 2014, the last time a gun-control measure was on the Washington ballot, the National Rifle Association took aim at it with nearly $500,000 in campaign funding. But the gun-rights advocates were badly outspent— nineteenfold — by Bloomberg, local billionaires and other gun-control supporters, and the initiative passed.

The National Rifle Association has donated to the campaigns of 25 Washington state legislators this year, but on initiatives, the NRA is MIA.

#3 Smith plays defense

The CEO of Northrop Grumman, one of the country's biggest defense contractors, has given big to Democratic Rep. Adam Smith's campaign for re-election. Smith's Congressional district stretches from Redmond to Tacoma. Northrop Grumman, with $23.5 billion in revenue last year, has no facilities in the Pacific Northwest.

Northrop Grumman CEO Wesley Bush of McLean, Virginia, is one of five donors tied for giving Smith the most this election. Bush and his wife, Natalie Ferrise Bush, gave Smith a combined $5,400.

Seem odd? Smith is ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. Bush and his employees at Northrop Grumman have given Smith's campaign $32,950 this year — making the firm Smith's largest donor.

Smith's opponent, Republican Doug Basler of Gig Harbor, has raised $25,440 – less money than Northrop Grumman employees alone have thrown at Smith.

#4 Jayapal vs. Walkinshaw

Pramila Jayapal cruised to a commanding victory in August's top-two primary after raising at least 50 percent more cash, much of it from out-of-state sources, than any of her opponents seeking to represent the 7th Congressional District. It covers most of Seattle and some suburbs. But Jayapal spent so heavily on the primary that her remaining war chest of $369,000 was only 17 percent larger than rival Brady Piñero Walkinshaw's $314,000, according to the campaigns' latest quarterly filings with the Federal Election Commission in July.

Spending on Congressional races is harder to track than Presidential or local races: Congressional campaigns only have to divulge their finances quarterly to the Federal Election Commission, with the next reports due Oct. 15.

U.S. Senate candidates are even allowed to file on paper, not electronically, further delaying scrutiny of their funding and spending. Those who make laws sometimes go easier on themselves than on others.

#5 Out-of-state money aims to break a barrier

A candidate for the relatively obscure post of lieutenant governor has received $300,000 in out-of-state contributions, much of it from the Iranian-American community. That's about 47 percent of all the money contributed to state Sen. Cyrus Habib, who has raised nearly twice as much as any candidate for lieutenant governor has before.

If elected, Habib would become the nation's first Iranian-American to hold statewide office, 20 years after Washington Gov. Gary Locke became the first Asian-American governor outside of Hawaii in 1996. Republican opponent Marty McClendon has raised only $34,000, about 5 percent as much as Habib has. 

#6 Clinton trumps Trump

Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has outraised Republican opponent Donald Trump 8 to 1 in Washington state, according to the campaigns' latest federal filings. Clinton has raised $5.8 million here, compared to $713,000 raised by Trump in Washington. 

#7 Seattle law firm cashes in

The Clinton campaign has paid Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie $2.6 million for legal services, according to reports the campaign submitted to the Federal Election Commission. Clinton spokesperson Miryam Lipper declined to comment on the expenditures.

Perkins Coie attorneys have represented the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. According to American Lawyer magazine, at least five Perkins Coie attorneys appear in the batch of DNC emails leaked by Wikileaks that led to the ouster of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz over the DNC's alleged bias against former candidate Bernie Sanders.

The Trump campaign has reported $2.4 million in expenditures for legal services, mostly to the Cleveland-based law firm Jones Day.