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QUIZ: Can you see past big-money groups’ feel-good names?

Grizz, the author's cat. This photo makes sense if you read the story.
KUOW Photo/Abraham Epton
Grizz claims to be nonpartisan.

Elections are big business, with consultants, campaign staffers, advertising firms and TV stations raking in big bucks. 

So far, more than $110 million has been poured into election campaigns in Washington state this year, much of it spent by, or funneled through, political action committees operating largely unseen.

Often, you'll glimpse these names in the fine print or hear them during a speed-read disclosure at the end of a political ad. As we pored over the latest weekly revelations of the role of money in politics (provided by campaigns' required filings with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission), we were struck by the PACs’ names. 

Sometimes they’re straightforward. It's perfectly clear who is behind the state's highest-spending political committee, the Washington Education Association PAC (so far this year, the teachers union has raised $2.8 million and spent $1.3 million). Same for other big spenders like the Washington Realtors PAC ($2.1 million raised; $820,000 spent).

With other PACs, it's not obvious who's behind the group, but at least their names give you a good idea what they stand for. The big-business-backed Mass Transit Now ($2.4 million raised; $1.2 million spent), for example, is supporting Sound Transit’s ballot measure.

That leaves the mystery PACs, like New Direction or Mainstream Voters of Washington. It's anybody's guess what they stand for – or whose money they're using to influence our state's politics. See if you can guess who's behind these big-spending groups that are trying to sway Washingtonians' votes this year.

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Year started with KUOW: 2009