Two political committees have emerged as the major outside spenders supporting Washington’s gubernatorial candidates, but a third organization is hoping to make a splash, and political insiders say more groups could enter the fray.
Washington Conservation Voters, an environmental group, is preparing to launch a $750,000 advertising campaign to boost Democrat Jay Inslee in his bid against Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna.
It’s the environmental community’s largest-ever commitment to a state political race, said Brendon Cechovic, the group’s executive director, who predicted the campaign “is going to surprise Rob McKenna in a big way.”
The conservation voters are this year’s wealthiest independent group besides the two major players: the pro-McKenna RGA Washington PAC and the pro-Inslee Our Washington.
The RGA Washington PAC is funded entirely by the national Republican Governors Association, which has given $6 million so far. Our Washington is an alliance of the national Democratic Governors Association, trial lawyers, teachers unions and other labor groups. So far it’s pulled in $5.8 million.
Both groups have run two TV ads each attacking the other candidate.
That has allowed the Inslee and McKenna campaigns, which have each raised about $9 million on their own, to focus largely on positive advertising. However, each began running TV ads this week attacking his opponent.
An association of realtors has run radio ads supporting McKenna, but other previously active groups – including the former powerhouse Building Industry Association of Washington – appear to be teaming up with the major coalitions or sitting this campaign out entirely.
Spending is expected to ramp up in the final weeks before the election.
But so far the well-funded national super PACs, such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, haven’t jumped in.
“We’re kind of waiting for another shoe to drop,” said Christian Sinderman, a consultant working with the Inslee campaign. “I’m sure there will be more interest as the election gets closer.”
Independent expenditures, defined as spending on behalf of a candidate but not coordinated with his or her campaign, are playing a role in races across the country. The outside-spending groups are attractive to political activists because – unlike the candidates’ campaigns – they can accept and spend unlimited donations.
In Washington, it has been common to see ads sponsored by unions, business groups and professional associations, as well as national political organizations like the Republican Governors Association.
But over the past few elections, the outside groups have started pooling their resources.
At least two groups have chosen to buck the trend this year: the environmentalists and the Realtors.
Washington Conservation Voters has raised more than $700,000, including $250,000 from the national League of Conservation Voters, according to campaign-finance disclosure reports. In 2008, the state group raised about $337,000.
The WA Realtors PAC has raised some $685,000 – about one-third of what it raised four years ago when it supported Republican Dino Rossi for governor. Our Washington, the liberal alliance, has so far received $3 million from the Democratic Governors Association, $1.35 million from teachers unions, $1.2 million from other unions and $225,000 from the Justice for All PAC, a group of attorneys, according to disclosure documents. firstname.lastname@example.org