Erica Barnett at Publicola uncovered yesterday a new independent expenditure group in support of Senator Ed Murray’s bid for Seattle Mayor.
The group “People for a new Seattle Mayor” will join “People For Ed Murray” as the coffers for corporate contributions that go beyond the contribution limits in Seattle elections. Both PACs will be overseen by the same consultant and treasurer. According to Erica, “He (Consultant Dean Nielsen) told PubliCola, a bit abstruesly, that it was a “smaller and more nimble group” than People for Ed Murray, and said the group hadn’t started raising money yet.”
First, good use of the word abstruesly.
Second, what does the word “nimble” mean in the context of an independent expenditure campaign:
1) Easier to hide donations.
It has become standard practice to create more than one PAC so one of the PACs can give to the other. Why? Every PAC has to report their Top 5 contributors in each mailpiece or TV ad. This way, one of the PACs can just report that it was the other PAC who gave them money. You will get a piece of mail that says Paid For By “People For Ed Murray” TOP 5 CONTRIUBTORS: People for a new Seattle Mayor. This is a tried and true way to obscure donors who either don’t want to show up or have less than stellar reputations among voters.
2) Hard to track.
This one is simple . The more PACs you create, the harder it is to track all the money.
3) Use the PDC instead of Seattle Ethics and Elections
This is the subject of our PDC complaint so hopefully these PACS will follow the rules this time. CASE decided in the primary to only disclose to the state PDC instead of Seattle Ethics and Elections. That was a smart way to hide donations because the PDC is much harder to figure out than Seattle Ethics and Elections.
4) Don’t need as much buyoff on questionable attacks
It was a bit of an abstruse comment but what I read into the word “nimble” is the ability to do slimier negative attacks without getting buyoff from the larger group of donors who are giving to “People For Ed Murray”.
Thwarting campaign finance disclosure laws
In other words, all of the reasons for being “nimble” are simply designed to thwart the spirit of our campaign finance disclosure system.
Now, here’s my warning to the donors to these PACs. This will be a big issue in this race. It already is. If you are told that “we can hide your money” or “no one will know that you gave”, it isn’t true.
First, Publicola (and others) did a great job in the primary of reporting quickly and accurately where the money was coming from for all independent expenditures. Second, we will do everything we can in the Mayor’s campaign to let people know exactly who is giving money, how much they are giving and where that money is spent.