Wonder what strings might be attached to Washington candidates for public office? First you need to know who funds their campaigns — who pays for mailers and commercials on radio and TV. People running for office have to regularly disclose that information, and it’s all on the Internet.
1. It’s as easy as P-D-C: Go to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission at www.pdc.wa.gov. You’re now at the entrance to the state’s exhaustive campaign spending database.
2. Go for the green: This is the most important step, so take it slowly. Near the top of the page you’ll see several green-colored tabs. Put the cursor on “Search the database” and — voila — several new tabs will appear. Move the cursor to “Candidates” to continue on the path to learning who is contributing to whom. (By going to “Committees,” you can find donors to initiative campaigns.) As the “Candidates” tab turns black, these new choices pop up in green, on the right: “Statewide,” “Legislative,” “Judicial,” “Local” and “Surplus.” Click on “Local” to dig into the races in Snohomish County this year.
3. The mother lode: You’ve reached the vault of information for every candidate for a local office in Washington. There’s a shortcut to find information on a particular candidate: There are several columns, starting on the left with “Details.” Go to “Name,” where you’ll be able to use a shortcut to find a specific candidate rather than scroll through all those names.
4. Filter your results On the right side of this tab is a funnel that looks a bit like a Halogen lamp pointing upward. Click on it and a little box pops up. See the words “Show rows with value that”? To the right, just below the end, you’ll see an arrow. Click on it, choose “Contains” and click again. In the empty box below “Contains,” type the last name of the candidate, then go to the bottom of this little box and click on “Filter.” The name of the person you are looking for should pop up. Click on “Details.”
5. Donors and expenses: You’ve made it. In front of you is a screen listing contributors in alphabetical order. Click on “Expenditures” to see how the person spent the contributions. Finished with this candidate? Look to the right. Click the arrow next to “Select an opponent” and you can switch to anyone else in the race.
6. Rinse, repeat: Or check out some of the other tabs. As The Herald’s Scott North wrote last month, jump in — because you can’t break anything.
The feds have one, too: Data on candidates for federal office can be found at www.fec.gov.