Many people have emailed about my recents posts about the off-islanders behind Maureen Judge's campaign for city council. I was out of town this weekend and I'm finally catching up. Here's one from David Goldstein:
I noticed your posts on donations in the MI city council races. My interest in that race is that Maureen Judge is my ex-wife, and my daughter is about to start a new school year at Island Park Elementary. As a political blogger I've got a bit of experience analyzing PDC reports, and a bit of knowledge in the way campaigns raise their funds, so I just wanted to point out a couple subtleties regarding off-island and "special interest" donations that you may be missing.
When candidates raise money -- especially first time candidates who lack an established donor base -- they are advised to start with friends and family first, extending their fundraising efforts out in concentric circles, using established donors to help you connect with their close friends and family. This is particularly true of very local races, and can particularly distort the fundraising reports in low budget campaigns.
In Maureen's case, looking at the contribution detail report on the PDC website, I can tell you that all but 3 of the top 25 individual donations come from very close friends and family members; the other three donations came from the Clarks, who are active in the local Democratic Party. Apart from her Uncle Martin and Aunt Delores Judge who are longtime residents, and one person who is in the process of moving to the Island, the other top individuals have no interest in the race other than their love and respect for Maureen. Quite frankly, as a relative newcomer to the Island, Maureen simply doesn't have an established circle of close friends from whom to make this kind of ask, but as the campaign continues and Island residents get to know her better, I expect the bulk of her remaining fundraising will come in relatively small donations from Island residents. This is very, very, typical, and while I do not know Steve Litzow's circumstances, it wouldn't surprise me if the bulk of his out of state donations came from close friends and family too. That's just the way small campaigns work.
As to "special interest" money, well, no doubt, that's exactly what it is, but it isn't really fair to consider that off-Island, as groups like Washington Conservation Voters, NARAL/Pro-Choice WA, Cascade Bike Club, and the Women's Political Caucus represent many, many Island residents. As for Progressive Majority of Washington, it's mission is to elect progressive candidates into local races, so as to build the farm team from which future political stars might rise. There's nothing secretive or nefarious here.
Anyway, just thought I'd add my two cents.
Thanks, David, for the clarification and for giving me permission to post your reply. You offer good explanations for the off-island giving, but you've also raised some other questions.
- By saying "she doesn't have an established circle of close friends" -- well, then how does she know what Islanders want? I was disappointed that she didn't bother to attend the all-Island debate last month; How exactly are we supposed to get to know her?
- It's great that Maureen has so many off-island friends, but how do I know those gifts have no strings attached? and how much off-island influence should the public tolerate anyway? What if Maureen starts taking donations from friends in Renton?
- Is Maureen turning a non-partisan office into a partisan one? Should her competitor, Mike Cero, try to recruit money and support from special interests as well? Note that she receives about as much from special interests ($2100) as she gets from Islanders ($2400).
Incidentally, I've been too busy to post Mike Cero's contribution numbers, but frankly the list is pretty boring: a bunch of $100 checks from miscellaneous residents who support him one at a time. I have no idea what Mike Cero's political leanings are, but I think it would be a shame if, to compete with all her special interest and off-island money, he were forced to solicit similar donations from the opposing sides of state-wide and national organizations.