Politics & Government

State officials, including Gov. Inslee, scramble in face of fundraising freeze

The state Legislative Building in Olympia is shown in this file photo from July.
The state Legislative Building in Olympia is shown in this file photo from July. The Associated Press

State elected officials, facing a fundraising freeze that will last until at least March, took to email, Twitter and Facebook this week to plead for last-minute donations.

“Just over 24 hours to the 90-day fundraising freeze! $300 away from a huge milestone. Donate here to help me further elevate our great public schools!” state Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, wrote Thursday on Facebook.

State law requires that sitting legislators and statewide elected officials stop campaign fundraising 30 days before the start of a legislative session. That means those incumbents must cease fundraising at 12:01 a.m. Saturday (Dec. 12), in anticipation of the Legislature’s return to Olympia Jan. 11.

Reykdal is running for state superintendent of public instruction in 2016, and faces two opponents — Gil Mendoza and Erin Jones — who aren’t subject to campaign fundraising restrictions. The freeze doesn’t apply to state-level candidates who have yet to take office.

The blackout on fundraising continues through the legislative session, which is scheduled to end March 10, but could last longer if lawmakers need special sessions to finish their work.

Every campaign has make or break moments. This is one of ours.

Gov. Jay Inslee campaign email, urging supporters Friday to donate before fundraising freeze begins

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, made a plea similar to Reykdal’s on Facebook on Monday, even though no one has filed to run against her yet.

“I can hardly believe we have just five days left until the legislative fundraising freeze goes into effect and I’m blocked out of raising money for my campaign,” Wyman’s campaign posted Monday. “Would you make a quick online donation today to keep us on track?”

Gov. Jay Inslee’s campaign also made a final fundraising push before the deadline. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant is immune from the fundraising freeze, a fact of which Inslee’s campaign is keenly aware.

“When the clock strikes midnight tonight, our campaign must stop fundraising for at least three months,” Inslee’s campaign wrote in an email Friday, calling those last hours before the freeze “make or break moments.”

The email noted, “During the next three months, my opponent will raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

So far, Inslee has raised about $3.4 million and spent about $1.6 million, according to his latest campaign finance reports. Bryant, meanwhile, has raised about $802,000 and spent about $325,000, according to his filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

I think the logic in general is to remove any undue influence, or perceived influence.

Lori Anderson of the state Public Disclosure Commission, on why state officials can’t raise money before and during legislative sessions

Justin Matheson, Bryant’s campaign manager, said Bryant will try to raise as much money as possible during the months that Inslee can’t. “Our goal is to make up the difference,” Matheson said.

Matheson said he expects more money to come in from the state Republican party early next year, after party officials make their official endorsement in the governor’s race.

Jamal Raad, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, wouldn’t comment on whether he thinks Bryant’s campaign can catch up to Inslee in the upcoming months, but he said the campaign fundraising freeze is an important part of the state’s election system and must be respected.

Washington voters approved the freeze by passing Initiative 134 in 1992. Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission, said the law is designed to guard against the perception that campaign donors are buying votes at the Legislature.

“I think the logic in general is to remove any undue influence, or perceived influence,” Anderson said.

Even before session starts, lawmakers and other state officials are already working on legislation and other policy proposals, which why the freeze begins 30 days in advance, Anderson said.

“There could be some perception that contributions are exercising influence, regardless of whether they’re made during the session or the days leading up to the session, because everyone is gearing up and getting their proposals lined up,” she said.

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209, @melissasantos1