Political action committees have made more than $3 million in independent expenditures in Seattle’s elections this year, setting a record thanks partly to a late surge powered by donors from the real estate and business worlds.
PACs with such donors have poured nearly $800,000 into races for mayor, city attorney and City Council shortly before Tuesday’s ballot deadline, with Seattle for Common Sense, Change Seattle and the National Association of Realtors Fund each reporting large expenditures in the past couple of weeks.
Their spending follows earlier, even larger outlays by PACs dedicated to helping mayoral candidates Bruce Harrell and M. Lorena González, with individuals and labor unions writing huge checks in the process.
Independent expenditures have totaled about $3.4 million — almost triple the amount in the city’s 2017 elections, when the same four positions were on the ballot. Such expenditures can’t be coordinated with the actual candidates.
Seattle for Common Sense has reported spending about $360,000 since Oct. 12, with most of that flowing in the past week. The money has mostly been spent on mailers attacking city attorney candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy.
The PAC has more than 100 contributors, including some small donors. But most of the money has come in $5,000 to $25,000 checks. The top donors are Goodman Real Estate’s John Goodman; Gordon Trucking’s Steve Gordon; Vulcan Real Estate; transportation-distribution company Saltchuk; real estate company Sabey Corporation; Wright Runstad & Company’s Jon and Judith Runstad; Microsoft President Brad Smith and investor Mikal Thomsen.
Change Seattle has reported spending about $233,000 since Oct. 12, mostly on mailers attacking council candidate Nikkita Oliver. The PAC has more than 180 contributors, including a number of small donors.
The top donors are Vulcan; Saltchuk; Jon and Judith Runstad; Mariners co-owner Christopher Larson; a PAC for Seattle hotel and restaurant owners; a PAC for the Washington state chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association; and a PAC for the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association.
The National Association of Realtors Fund reported spending about $191,000 on Oct. 14, split between mailers and online ads supporting mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell and Oliver’s Position 9 opponent, Sara Nelson.
Thomas-Kennedy, Oliver and incumbent Position 8 candidate Teresa Mosqueda held a news conference with labor leaders Monday to protest PAC spending by “bosses and landlords.” They and González have cast themselves against Harrell, city attorney candidate Ann Davison, Nelson and Position 8 candidate Kenneth Wilson. Those candidates have noted that their own campaigns have support from a wide range of people.
González, the council’s current president, sponsored a law last year that prohibits companies with foreign investors, like Amazon, from making independent expenditures on their own or through PACs.
For much of the year, there was relatively even PAC spending, with Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future spending slightly more than $1 million for Harrell and against González, and Essential Workers for Lorena spending slightly less than $1 million for González and against Harrell.
Several top donors to Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future have also contributed to Seattle for Common Sense or Change Seattle. Essential Workers for Lorena is funded by unions for hotel, supermarket and health care workers.
There are other PACs involved, spending less. For example: A PAC associated with the union for Seattle firefighters has reported spending more than $100,000 recently to support Harrell and Nelson, and a PAC partly funded by organizations associated with entrepreneur Nick Hanauer has reported spending $86,000 for Oliver and against Nelson.
Seattle candidates themselves have raised more than $6 million this year — also a record, with more than $4 million of that collected by the eight candidates on Tuesday’s general-election ballot.