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    Reprinted from Island Times, November 10, 1998.

    The recently-concluded local campaign was the most expensive in San Juan County history. Here’s a look at who paid for it, where the money went and other tales of woe …

    by LIAM MORIARTY

    Reviewing campaign finances in the wake of last week’s election, there’s good news, and there’s bad news.

    The good news is that money doesn’t have the stranglehold on the San Juan County electoral process that it has in most mainland locales. Local candidates don’t spend most of the campaign — much less most of their terms in office — hustling contributors to feed the voracious campaign monster.

    We also don’t have local television, the major source of shallow, deceptive campaigning in most other areas — and by far the largest consumer of campaign funds. While spending hit record highs during the campaign, let’s face it; you can spend only so much money on ads in the local newspapers.

    And virtually without exception, the money spent on island elections comes from folks who live — at least part time — in the islands.

    But then …

    The bad news is that money is playing a growing role in local politics each election cycle. The nearly $250,000 raised by candidates and parties this season dwarfs the $130,000 gathered for the last election, just two years ago.

    And “soft money” — the relatively unregulated funds that have become to symbolize all that is corrupt in state and federal campaign financing — is making its presence felt in the islands. Exactly how much is hard to tell, since the San Juan County Republican Central Committee — the only folks using soft money locally — don’t seem to have filed those disclosure reports with the state in nearly two years.

    How big was it, Johnny?

    Well, Ed, while it wasn’t much compared to what they were spending on the mainland, the bundle of boodle dropped on the recent election was the biggest ever in the islands. Spending records were broken not only for the county-wide campaign as a whole, but new highs were set in the commissioner, prosecutor and district court judge races, as well.

    (A quick proviso … except as noted, all figures cited for the 1998 election are those reported as of Oct. 26. Reports for the last week of the campaign, when filed, are likely to drive the final totals for both contributions and expenditures higher.)

    Democrat Rhea Miller was fundraising champ for 1998, raising just over $40,000 in contributions to keep her seat on the Board of County Commissioners. She out-gunned Republican Jack Giard, who brought in more than $36,000.

    Compare this to the last commissioner contest in 1996. Republican John Evans raised $27,200 to beat Bob Gamble, who took in $17,300. Also that year, Tom Starr and Darcie Nielsen set the record Miller and Giard just broke by collecting nearly $30,000 each.

    The Sugar Daddies

    There were a handful of stand-out contributors this election season, folks who gave their constitutional right to free expression a healthy workout via their checkbooks.

    Among those who backed their beliefs with big bucks:

    Robert Lundeen, Deer Harbor, who contributed $3,000 to Stewart Andrew’s successful campaign for San Juan District Court judge.

    Bruce and Judith Moorad, San Juan Island, who spread a total of $3,600 between Rhea Miller, Prosecutor Randy Gaylord, District Court candidate Ron Gordon and Democratic challenger for assessor, Manfred Rose.

    Bruce and Martha Coffey, Orcas, giving a total of $6,000 to Andrew, Jack Giard and the Republican Central Committee.

    Edgar and Pauline Stern, San Juan Island, donating a total of $7,000 to Giard, Andrew, and the San Juan County Republican Central Committee.

    But the hands-down winner of the 1998 Golden Ballot award is Deer Harbor consultant Alan G. Stanford. Stanford contributed $2,500 to Jack Giard, $5,000 to the Republican Central committee, plus a whopping $6,500 to Judge Andrew, for a total of $14,000.

    By way of comparison, Stanford’s contributions exceeded the entire campaign fund of several candidates, including Sheriff Bill Cumming, his Republican challenger John Volk, prosecuting attorney hopeful Paul McIllrath, District Court contender Derek Mann and assessor candidates Paul Dossett and Manfred Rose. Stanford’s donations to Giard and Andrew alone roughly equaled the total treasury of the San Juan County Democratic Central Committee.

    Judge not, lest ye be judged …

    The nominally non-partisan race for San Juan County District Court judge grew to unprecedented proportions this year.

    Four years ago, Judge John Linde spent $4,831 to beat Lawrence Delay, who spent $3,997.

    This time, Stewart Andrew raised over $36,000 to beat Ron Gordon, who raised nearly $26,000. Early challenger Derek Mann spent a little over $5,000 but was eliminated in the September primary.

    Not only did the race produce breathtakingly huge ads in the weekly newspapers, but yard signs — those visual pimples that island candidates customarily shun on principle — were in ample supply as well.

    But for all the fuss and bother, most of the money in this race came from a very narrow slice of the voting public. A third of Andrew’s war chest came from just two contributors, while another $10,000 came from personal loans; $5,000 from his wife Cynthia and $5,000 from John Hensel of Walnut Creek, California.

    Meanwhile, Gordon was 80 percent funded by loans and donations from himself, his wife Colleen Clancy, and relatives in California.

    The family that pays together …

    In fact, getting money from spouses, family, friends and the candidate’s own pocket was a popular way to get — or keep — the campaign ball rolling.

    Prosecutor Randy Gaylord received $1,000 each from Mary Ellen Gaylord and Edward Gaylord, and loaned nearly $3,000 to his own campaign.

    Aspiring assessor Manfred Rose gave his campaign nearly $1,800 of his $4,700 total, and loaned it another $1,500.

    Sheriff candidate John Volk was one of only 19 contributors to his campaign, lending himself $5,000 of the $6,670 total he raised.

    It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

    In addition to the individual candidates’ campaigns, the local chapters of the Democratic and Republican parties were active, as well, giving money and advertising in support of their candidates. All in all, the Republicans were busier; they had a lot more money, too. Looking at how much money there was, where it came from and where it went to gives an intriguing insight into the differences between the R’s and the Dems in San Juan County.

    The Democrats started 1998 with a little over $1,700, left over from the 1996 campaign. They raised about $4,000 at an auction in March, and, according to committee chairwoman Louise Dustrude, they took in $1,800 at another auction in late October. Add a few odd contributions and the Dems raised a grand total of about $9,000.

    The R’s, on the other hand, started 1998 with $2,323; by the end of January they had more than $13,000. As of the Oct. 29 filing, the Republican Central Committee had raised over $47,000 this year and had spent nearly $37,000 of it.

    And while the Democrats rely on fundraisers to build their war chest, the Republicans lean heavily in the generosity of their supporters. This year, the R’s had 11 contributors of $1,000 or more. Those top donors gave a total of nearly $22,000 to the Republican Central Committee.

    The Dems had no thousand-dollar benefactors.

    The Democrats gave nearly half their money — $4,000 — to their candidates Rhea Miller, Manfred Rose, Bill Cumming and 40th District representative Jeff Morris. Most of the rest went to mailers, newspaper ads and general office expenses. Dustrude says the final figures aren’t in yet, but she expects the party will pretty much have blown its wad on the campaign.

    Informed of how much more money the R’s have than her side does, Dustrude says a bit defensively, “Look who won the election!” Besides she says, “Traditionally, we encourage people to give directly to the candidates.”

    The Democrats’ focus on the election stands in contrast to the aggressive party-building and public outreach program the Republican committee has been working on since last spring. It’s hard to tell from the committee’s disclosure documents just how much of the nearly $12,000 it spent at the newspapers this year went towards those much-remarked-on “We’re not like you; we are you!” ads. But it’s clear the R’s are looking to shed their image as the party of rich developers and broaden their message. They’re thinking beyond this election cycle; the Dems don’t seem to be.

    Show us the (soft) money!

    By law, individuals, businesses and political action committees can contribute only $2,000 to any one candidate. This law — Initiative 134 — was passed in 1992 as an effort to get some public control over campaign money.

    But the law puts no restrictions on how much so-called “soft money” political parties can accept. Soft money — or “exempt money” — does have some legally-imposed strings attached. According to the law, it can’t be used to “promote or advertise for individual candidates.” It can be used for internal party expenses, fundraising activities and party-building “without direct association with individual candidates.”

    The San Juan County Democrats are innocent of soft money. Asked about it, Chairwoman Louise Dustrude isn’t even sure just what it is, but says she doesn’t think they have any of it. A check of their disclosure filings confirms that.

    The R’s, on the other hand, do have it. In fact, their high-profile newspaper ad campaign is exactly the type of “party-building” soft money is meant to be used for. But whether they’ve been using that money that way is hard to tell.

    For one thing, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), the San Juan Republican Central Committee hasn’t filed reports on their exempt money for nearly two years. The most recent soft-money filing on record in Olympia is for the November 1996 period.

    According to that report, filed by then-treasurer Marcus Bonn, the committee had spent $22,288 in exempt money during the 1996 campaign. Bonn reported the exempt account was $463 in the red as of Nov. 30. What happened next is unclear.

    Current Republican Committee treasurer Natalie Kneipp insists she has filed the required reports for the party’s soft money account.

    “We do use exempt money,” she told the Island Times on Monday. Kneipp didn’t know why the PDC wouldn’t have those reports on file.

    If the state doesn’t have them and you do, might we get a look at them?

    “I’d have to clear that with the board,” Kneipp said.

    When?

    “Maybe in a few days, whenever I see the board members.”

    Stay tuned.

    Miscellaneous Post-election Notes …

    Hollywood money made a cameo appearance in San Juan County this season. Part-time Orcas Islanders Richard and Lauren Donner — she, the producer of the “Free Willy” movies; he, the director of Lethal Weapon (1,2 and 3), Conspiracy Theory, Maverick and nearly every other film Mel Gibson has ever made — kicked in $1,500 toward Rhea Miller’s re-election effort. They also dropped $1,000 on Sheriff Bill Cumming. Meanwhile, El Lay music producer Jerome Moss laid $1,000 on Miller, and $500 on Stewart Andrew.

    The big winners in the recent election were the local newspapers — the Journal, the Sounder and the Weekly. According to candidate’s expense disclosure filings, between them the papers raked in something on the order of $87,000 for political advertising. The local businesses that supplied printing, design work and advertising space to the candidates made out, as well. Printing firms that made brochures, mailers, bumper-stickers, buttons and signs were paid more than $30,000 from the combined campaigns. Uncle Sam was a big winner, too. The candidates and party committees paid the U.S. Postal Service a total of nearly $18,000.

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