Another good negative indicator
You know those nasty mailers that have been fluttering into your mailbox over the last few weeks? Be sure to read the “Paid for by ___” line in the small print at the bottom of each mailer—a disclosure required by law in Washington State. If it says “Paid for by the Spokane Good Governance Alliance” consider the source when judging the contents.
The ‘Good Governance Alliance’ makes a mockery of its own name by fielding misleading attack ads in the form of TV spots, mailers, door hangers, robocalls, and text messages flooding the City of Spokane voters’ mailboxes. Ninety-nine percent of vendors paid to produce this flood are located outside the City of Spokane, a preponderance of which are based in Phoenix AZ and Washington D.C. Based on reporting to date ‘Good Governance’ has spent almost a million dollars on “Independent Expenditures” with outside firms this election cycle. You can cruise the list of expenditures here.
The so-called “Spokane Good Government Alliance” is awash in cash from a small number of monied interests. To date this year the ‘Good Governance’ political committee reports to the Public Disclosure Commission having raised donations of $1,412,521.00, almost four times what it raised in any prior municipal election cycle since it was formed in 2019. All of this money is destined to be spent either on misleading ads attacking progressive candidates or in support of all the recognizably Republican candidates for city offices. This is big bucks talking: the entire 1.4M was raised from just forty-eight unique business and individual donors—an average donation of nearly $30,000. You can cruise the list of contributors here. (Currently there are 73 rows of contributions, but many of the biggest donors wrote multiple checks.)
Who are these people?
The single biggest contributor to “Spokane Good Government” is Gee Automotive Companies with $225,000. That’s 16% of the total. That 225K is, by itself, more than any one of the City of Spokane City Council candidates has raised this election cycle. Gee Automotive is a privately held company that doesn’t even have a presence in the City of Spokane, and yet the Gee family sees fit to use its profits to put a huge thumb on the scales of the City of Spokane municipal election.
Next up is Larry Stone at $175,000, which is just a fraction of the amount Mr. Stone has spent this election cycle trying to keep Mayor Nadine Woodward in office, flip the City Council, and protect his investment in the TRAC homeless shelter building. Mr. Stone has contributed an additional $115,000 to “Clean and Safe Spokane”, nearly a third of that political committee’s total war chest, to promote City of Spokane Proposition 1. Prop 1 is the ballot measure that would outlaw camping in nearly two thirds of the City of Spokane, force the unsheltered homeless further into neighborhoods (and, perhaps worth noting, into Stone’s TRAC Shelter—if there were room…). Moreover Prop 1 would likely commit to City to an expensive legal battle. That total of more than a quarter of a million dollars Mr. Stone also spent an undisclosed amount producing “Curing a Broken Spokane”.
An obscure entity with an office in the Washington Trust Building, the “FJ Contribution Company I LLC”, contributed the next largest amount to “Spokane Good Government”, at $160,000. A quick search of that peculiar name reveals that one of the contacts for “FJ” is Alvin J. Wolff, Jr.. Alvin Wolff is the elder statesman of the Wolff Company, a real estate empire that owns and operates 30,000 rental units nationwide. In the 2019 election cycle the Wolff family poured significant resources in support of then mayoral candidate Nadine Woodward and a slate of Republican candidates for the nominally non-partisan seats on the City of Spokane City Council. The Wolffs gained some probably unwelcome notoriety in a Spokesman article that year. One cannot help but wonder if the “FJ Contribution Company I LLC” was established to shield some Wolff contributions to the “Spokane Good Government Alliance” in 2023. (Alvin J. Wolff, Jr. also directly contributed to $30,000 to the “Alliance”.)
The 2023 municipal election cycle is on track to set another new record for the amount of money raised and spent by “independent” political action committees. A common theme of the overwhelming expenditures on the Republican side of the ledger is real estate ownership, sales, leasing, and rental firms protecting their fat profits and wealth. (This election cycle just the three contributors to the “Spokane Good Government Alliance” mentioned in this post, Gee Automotive, Larry Stone, and the Wolff family, totaling $590,000, without considering any other monies gathered, already nearly reaches the record total independent expenditures of the 2019 cycle of $690K.)
The “Spokane Good Government Alliance” is a perfect example of a name suggesting lofty ideals bankrolled by just forty-eight donors. These contributions likely feel like a pocket change investment for them, with a great return on investment if their preferred candidates were to retain the mayorship and achieve a City Council majority. Don’t let a small number of wealthy people buy these contests. Pay attention to “Paid for by ___” line on the mailers and in the TV ads you’re fed by these people, understand what they are selling—and vote accordingly.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. For more detail on the “independent” expenditures in the City of Spokane City Council races check out Emry Dinman’s excellent article in the Spokesman entitled Many claims in Spokane City Council election ads are misleading. The “Spokane Good Government Alliance” features rather prominently—as it should.