With the 2018 election season well underway, statewide initiative campaigns are once again raking in millions of dollars from corporations, billionaires and residents both in and outside of Washington state.
Four initiatives will appear before voters on the Nov. 6 ballot. Through the initiatives, voters will decide whether to approve or shoot down a carbon fee, stricter gun control, a restriction on local grocery taxes and changes to the law surrounding the use of deadly force by police. An advisory vote is also on the ballot dealing with the state’s oil spill response tax.
As with any initiative season, millions of dollars are pouring into Washington state from the rest of the country, so the Reporter tracked down the numbers. The last report to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission was filed at the end of August.
Initiative 1631 would create a $15 per ton fee on carbon emissions in the state, levied on large carbon emitters beginning in 2020. It would increase by $2 per ton annually until 2035 when it would either be capped or continue rising depending on whether the state has met its goal of reducing emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels. It would effectively increase the cost of gas by about 15 cents per gallon.
Supporters of I-1631 have raised more than $5.6 million in cash with an additional $502,000 from in-kind donations. More than $3.45 million has come from individual donors, including environmentalist donors Sarah Merner and Craig McKibben who donated $500,000 each. Tableau Software founder Chris Stolte donated $250,000, as did billionaire venture capitalist Nicolas Hanauer.
Institutional donors include The Nature Conservancy which donated $1 million in cash and hundreds of thousands more from in-kind donations. The Washington, D.C.-based League of Conservation Voters supplied $300,000 to the campaign, and $175,000 came from the Washington Environmental Council.
Opposition to I-1631 has come almost entirely from massive oil and gas corporations which have dumped more than $20.36 million in cash into the No On 1631 campaign’s war chest. The largest donor by far is Phillips 66, based out of Washington D.C., which donated more than $7.2 million, followed by California-based oil refining company Andeavor which shelled out more than $4.36 million. BP America as well as BP contributed nearly $6.4 million combined, and American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers contributed $1 million. Other donations came from Chevron, Cascade Natural Gas, Western State Petroleum Association.
Noticeably absent from either side was Shell, whose CEO Ven van Beurden told Axios recently he would not fight the initiative.
To get a sense of how much corporate money has been dumped into the campaign, it’s worth noting that only seven individual donors combined contributed a little more than $1,000 to No On 1631.
The Association of Washington Businesses also filed a separate opposition campaign which has raised $14,500, with all but $2,500 coming from large oil and gas producers.
Sponsored mainly by soda manufactures, Initiative 1634 would prohibit local governments in the state from enacting new taxes on groceries and soft drinks. It comes after the Seattle City Council voted last year to charge a 1.75 cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks.
Nearly all of the $13 million for the initiative campaign, known as Yes! To Affordable Groceries, has come from large out of state corporations in a list that includes $6.2 million from Coca Cola, $4.68 million from Pepsi, more than $1 million from Dr Pepper and more than $911,000 from Dr Pepper’s Snapple group. Red Bull contributed an additional $152,000 and the Washington Food Industry Association donated $20,000.
The opposition’s fundraising includes the Healthy Kids Coalition, which raised $1,400 and the Healthy Inmates for Healthy Minds are Voting group, which chose to file as a mini contributor, meaning it could raise no more than $5,000 without disclosing its donations.
A gun-control measure, Initiative 1639 would place many new restrictions on gun ownership in the state, including requiring gun buyers to complete a training course, submit personal information to law enforcement and it would criminalize gun owners if their weapon was used to commit a crime. Additionally, it would create a database where the state would develop a way to ensure that gun owners remain eligible to own guns on an annual basis.
Supporters of the initiative hope it will curb gun violence by keeping the weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers, criminals and people who are legally barred from owning firearms. The supporting organization for the initiative is called Safe Schools, Safe Communities which has raised more than $4.4 million in cash. The majority of the funding has come from billionaires, including $1.2 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, $1.2 million from billionaires Nick and Leslie Hanauer and $1 million from Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. The activist organization Everytown for Gun Safety donated $250,000.
Opposition to the initiative has come from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which raised more than $183,000. Some $150,000 came from the NRA itself. Another opposition organization called Save Our Security raised $20,700 in cash donations.
The final initiative on the ballot deals with police training and use of force. It would mandate law enforcement officers to receive de-escalation and mental health crisis training while also obligating police to provide first aid if it is needed.
The final piece of Initiative 940 changes state law which requires prosecutors prove an officer who kills someone was acting in “good faith.” This would allow police to shoot someone only if “the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious physical harm to the officer or another individual.” Additionally, the officer’s actions would only be defensible if they believed deadly force was warranted in the circumstances. This significantly lowers the bar for prosecution in cases of officer shootings, which currently requires prosecutors to prove an officer shot and killed someone with “malice.”
Support for the initiative is being organized by De-Escalate Washington with the largest supporter being the Puyallup Tribe, which donated $400,000. Several other First Nations also donated, including the Snoqualmie, Muckleshoot, Quinault, S’klallam and Tulalip tribes. Nicolas Hanauer donated $250,000, and the ACLU of Washington donated $100,000.
The opposition is led by the Coalition for a Safer Washington and is spearheaded by the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild which contributed $90,000 of the total $112,000. Local conservative activist Faye Garneau donated $10,000, and the Peace Officers Research Association of California donated $10,000.