City Rumor: Business PAC Will Spend Tens of Thousands to Promote Velazquez
posted by September 28 at 18:15 PMon
Rumor is that Forward Seattle, a PAC that formed earlier this year to advocate for lower taxes and an improved climate for business in Seattle, plans to pour most or all of its substantial war chest (currently more than $100,000) into the campaign of City Council candidate Venus Velazquez. The group formed after the mayor’s transportation tax package passed last year.
Public-affairs consultant Don Stark, who co-founded Forward Seattle with another consultant, Joe Quintana, wouldn’t say what the group’s plans were for its money. He suggested calling Quintana, adding, “but I doubt he’ll tell you either.” (I left a message for Quintana). However, given that the Velazquez-Harrell race is pretty much the only game in town this year (all the incumbents running for reelection are expected to win), a big expenditure on Velazquez’s behalf seems almost certain. That’s got to be good news to Velazquez, who was $30,000 in the red at the end of August, the last time campaigns were required to report their financial info.
There’s another reason to suspect Forward Seattle is about to bail out the Velazquez campaign: Both she and her consultant, Moxie Media’s Lisa MacLean, both say they haven’t heard from any of Forward Seattle’s members in weeks. Election rules stipulate that PACs can make unlimited expenditures to promote or pan a candidate or cause, as long as they don’t do so in collusion or collaboration with the candidate.(If they do, they’re limited to the $700 contribution cap that applies to other contributors). In other words, it would be illegal for Forward Seattle to talk to Velazquez about their plans. “I don’t know what they’re doing; they haven’t talked to me, and they’re not telling me anything,” Velazquez says. “All of a sudden Joe Quintana won’t return my calls. Is that a sign they’re going to do something? Maybe.” MacLean laughed when I asked if she knew what Forward Seattle had planned, saying bluntly: “No. That would be illegal.” PACs are relatively uncommon at the city level; a staffer for the Ethics and Elections Commission said that the only two she could remember were Sidran Truth Squad, which opposed Mark Sidran; and BRIBE, the Stranger’s anti-Jean Godden PAC. (Hey, we were young.)
Harrell says he suspects Velazquez and Forward Seattle have communicated, noting that many of Forward Seattle’s contributors —Stark, Clise Properties, Mark Barbieri—also contributed to Velazquez. Harrell says the group’s support for his opponent shows who the real corporate candidate is. And Forward Seattle’s list of contributors—who also include Martin Selig, Vulcan, and two builders’ PACs—does read like a who’s-who of the local business establishment. “Yes, I have a business background, but they can’t buy me, and that’s why they’re launching this” campaign, Harrell says. (Harrell is a lawyer; Velazquez is a public-affairs consultant.) “The voters need to know if she has completely sold her soul.” Velazquez doesn’t shy away from her pro-business reputation (and Harrell was endorsed by the Alki Foundation, the Seattle Chamber’s political arm); she says if Forward Seattle does want to throw money her way, she’ll gladly take it. “They want to spend money in a Seattle race,” Velazquez says. “If you find out what they’re planning to do with it, let me know.”