Progressives, conservatives look for dirty laundry in county campaigns

Posted by Ralph Schwartz on October 7, 2013 

One way to air your political opponents' dirty laundry is via the Public Disclosure Commission.

Two complaints relevant to Whatcom County Council races have been filed over the past several months.

More recently, WWU political science professor Todd Donovan is asking the PDC to look into possible earmarking of funds, from coal terminal interests and BNSF Railroad to county council candidates, via the state Republican Party. (Thanks to local blogger Riley Sweeney for the link.)

In an interview, Donovan stressed the earmarking, if it happened, wouldn't be illegal. It would be a matter of improper disclosure.

I encourage you to read the Seattle PI's take on the issue, which outlines how a portion of the $40,000 in donations from Pacific International Terminals and BNSF could have been funneled to the candidates and the county party. 

The PI report came out on Wednesday, Oct. 2, the same day as a similar report by Riley Sweeney. (He says his post came first.)

An analysis by Sweeney and the PI of recent donations by Republicans puts the amount of money coming into Whatcom at $18,000 (Sweeney) or $17,000 (PI). Sweeney's headline, incidentally, claims all $40,000 came into Whatcom, which is not what his report says. 

The PI quotes Republican Party spokesman Keith Schipper as saying there was no wrongdoing. The report, in other words, amounts to "he said, she said." Sweeney does not indicate whether he sought Republican comment.

There's also been attention paid recently in the blogosphere to a complaint filed against county council member and candidate Ken Mann, for misreporting expenses in 2009. Mann says that discrepancy has been resolved. The PDC could issue the results of its investigation of Mann later this month.

It is Herald policy to await the outcome of a PDC investigation before reporting on it. Otherwise, you get that he said, she said thing. As you might expect, the Mann complaint was filed by Republican operative Chet Dow. Donovan, while frequently cited as a political expert in the media, isn't above a bias himself. He has past or current ties to Washington Conservation Voters and Futurewise.

Washington Conservation Voters last week reported an independent expenditure of $93,303 to benefit the four county council candidates opposite the four who allegedly benefited according to Donovan's complaint.

Politics is a tangled web. The Politics Blog and The Bellingham Herald look forward to the outcome of both PDC investigations.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service