State site rich in data on political spending

  • By Jerry Cornfield
  • Sunday, August 7, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: One of the best means of tracking the flow of money through Washington’s political arteries is via the website of the state Public Disclosure Commission.

This nationally recognized wellspring of information is teeming with all the evidence of how big a business politics has become in Washington.

In 2008, contributions from all sources into all campaigns statewide totaled $131,172,831. Last year the sum dipped to $117,419,630 but unlike 2008 there was no race for governor on the ballot. Additional years can be found on the “Election Totals” page.

There’s also a ton of stuff on the website aside from the balance sheets of candidates involved in the latest round of elections.

Here are four areas worth exploring:

Historical Publications: This is a trove of facts for which Trivial Pursuit questions can be scribed.

For example, do you know who raised the most money for a seat in the state Legislature in 2008? Democrat and former Snohomish mayor Liz Loomis. She collected $323,576 in an unsuccessful bid to retain her 44th Legislative District position. (For an extra five points, who beat her? Republican Mike Hope.)

Money Maps: This cool feature lets you see how much money a candidate hauled in from Snohomish and the other 38 counties. Current contests are there. So too are next year’s battles and past fights.

Looking back to 2008 and the race for governor, you’ll see Republican Dino Rossi took in $771,829 from Snohomish County donors compared Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire’s total of $434,356.

Now, looking ahead to the 2012 gubernatorial election, the maps show Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna garnering $54,800 from donors in this county with Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee’s haul sitting at $13,354.

Enforcement and Compliance: There are many alleged violations of campaign finance law but only a handful result in action. This section is where you can find out what’s under investigation and what punishment is handed out. They do post the documents once a decision is reached.

Lobbyist Information: A must-see area on the website, this is where you will find piles of data on what lobbyists and lobbying firms earn and spend each year.

There’s a tally for the top 50 highest compensated firms as well. Coming in at number two is Gordon Thomas Honeywell Government Affairs ($586,973) which provides lobbying services for Snohomish County in Olympia.

Add everything up and in 2011 there’s been $28.4 million spent on lobbying state officials. Sound high? Not historically. In 2010, lobbying expenses totaled $56.4 million.

This year’s amount is the lowest in a decade. Then again, there’s half a year left so keep checking back because you’re bound to see some changes.

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