A couple new PACs have entered the Seattle mayoral chat, marking the inevitable expansion of a race to raise and spend record-setting amounts of cash to influence voters before the primary election deadline on August 3.
Last week "Seattle United for Progressive Change" filed with the Seattle elections committee, and this week brings us "New Generation Leaders PAC." Seattle United will raise money on behalf of former Washington state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, and New Generations will do the same for former Chief Seattle Club director Colleen Echohawk.
State Rep. David Hackney, one of Seattle United's PAC officers, said the committee will raise money "from anyone we can" because they believe Farrell has "the vision and the political skills to make this city actually work."
So far, the PAC has raised around $23,500 but has spent nothing, according to disclosure forms. Top contributors include professional progressive rich couple Nick and Leslie Hanauer, and forest conservation couple Peter Goldman and Martha Kongsgaard. Farrell works as Senior Vice President for Hanauer's think tank, Civic Ventures.
When a PAC lined up for former Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell back in May, Farrell's campaign said, "It's unfortunate that powerful special interests are trying to undermine Seattle's public financing of our elections."
Earlier this month the combined spending of Harrell's campaign and the pro-Harrell PAC ultimately busted the $400,000 spending cap imposed by the city's Democracy Voucher program, the public campaign financing regime in which most of this year's mayoral candidates participated. After Harrell busted the cap, the mayoral candidates who'd already hit the limit applied for and were granted release from the program's spending restriction, which allows them to spend much more money, and so now here we are in PAC town.
Though she'll now benefit from PAC spending, Farrell's campaign still sings the same woeful song about "powerful special interests," though today they added a little jab at Essential Workers for Lorena, a union PAC that has raised $450,000 for Seattle City Council President Lorena González's bid to run the city: "We don't have any ability to direct or influence how any of these outside groups are spending their money, but we certainly hope any group that's spending on our behalf does not drop $110,000 on dried fruit," a campaign spokesperson said.
Yesterday evening the Seattle Times reported that Essential Workers for Lorena spent over $110,000 on "20,345 pounds of 1-ounce packets of dried cherries for mailers." The snacks came from "Chukar Cherries in Prosser, Benton County," and I only hope my Capitol Hill studio falls within the PAC's target demo because I am feeling a little snacky.
New Generation Leaders PAC will raise and spend on behalf of Colleen Echohawk, though there's nothing in the pot quite yet. PAC officer Eileen Pollet said a group of Echohawk's supporters started the independent expenditure because they "really believe in her leadership and have seen her…get real results on issues that are core to what our city needs right now, especially on homelessness."
One of the members of that group is PAC officer and commercial developer Steve Trainer. Trainer owns Seneca Real Estate Group and sits on the board of the nonprofit Echohawk used to direct, Chief Seattle Club. He also gave the Recall Sawant campaign $750 and Tim Burgess's People for Seattle PAC $1,000. If you don't remember, People for Seattle was one of a couple 2019 PACs that failed to install a bunch of corporate types on the city council.
Pollet said she'd ask Trainer if he'd like to talk to me, but I haven't heard back. She did offer this, though: "Steve has worked with Colleen at Chief Seattle Club in her efforts to build housing. That's the notable reason for his involvement much more than his personal career."
Like Farrell's campaign, Echohawk's campaign has also bemoaned "special interest groups...short circuiting the citizen based voucher program we have in place."
In any event, these burgeoning PACs have plenty of work to do if they want to catch up with the PACs raising money for Harrell and González. As the Seattle Times noted in their cherry story, the pro-González PAC has already spent over $300,000 with about $130,000 in debt, and the pro-Harrell PAC has already spent nearly $30,000 while racking up $114,000 in debts.