As the Aug. 4 primary election approaches, last-minute spending by a political action committee drew the attention of Tacoma City Council incumbent Anders Ibsen.
On a post to his campaign’s Facebook account, Ibsen remarked on recent campaign-related expenditures:
“Just learned that the Chamber of Commerce is spending almost $10,000 in third party spending in my race this weekend. We can’t allow wealthy special interests to buy elections,” he wrote.
Ibsen seeks reelection to the District 1 seat against business owner Tara Doyle-Enneking and high school teacher John Hines.
CLAIM 1: The Chamber of Commerce is spending nearly $10,000 on Ibsen’s opponents.
Fact: Let’s first look at terminology. When Ibsen mentions the chamber, he’s actually referring to the Tacoma-Pierce County Business Alliance Political Action Committee. The PAC and the Chamber have many of the same members, said the PAC’s president, Toby Murray of Murray Pacific Corp.
“Because the PAC is relatively new, it’s a mistake a lot of people could make,” said Murray, a former chairman of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber board.
The PAC has donated money to both Hines and Doyle-Enneking — $950 each. Candidates get to choose how to spend this money.
Then there is money that the PAC has spent on its own supporting candidates. It has reported spending $7,219 on mailers for Hines and $2,650 on mailers for Doyle-Enneking — a total of $9,869. PACs are not supposed to coordinate with campaigns on how to spend this money.
These efforts show up as independent expenditures for each candidate’s campaign. The PAC has also paid for mailers in the crowded District 3 race — $3,510 for Peace Community Center’s director of middle school programs Keith Blocker and $2,078 for restauranteur Kris Blondin.
The Chamber lists in its paperwork that it spent the money on July 28. The mailers are already hitting mailboxes in those districts.
True or false?: We rate this claim as true. The chamber and the PAC include many of the same members and promote the same interests.
CLAIM 2: “We can’t allow wealthy special interests to buy elections.”
Fact: With this statement, Ibsen seems to imply that he has not taken money from “wealthy special interests.”
That $60,495 amount includes about $14,875 from an alphabet soup of unions, from city police and firefighters to service workers, as well as known union activists. Rank-and-file workers generally donate small amounts to their union’s related political action committees.
Ibsen was asked if developers count as a wealthy special interest.
“I know what you’re pointing to, there. I think my campaign records speak for themselves,” he said. “... I think I’ve been a consistent advocate for smart growth and urban density. The contributions are a representation of our shared values.”
Ibsen said most of his donations are for $100 or less. Of the 300 donations, 201 are for $100 or less. His average donation is $190. The total includes $1,246 in small contributions.
Bottom line: Are unions and developers “wealthy special interests?” It depends on your definition of the term.
Here is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “special interest”: “A group that tries to influence the people who run a government in order to help a particular business, cause, industry, etc.”