Now that another bitterly partisan and divisive election draws to a close, Washingtonians should pause to reflect on the value of their vote.
What is that? You didn’t sell your vote to anyone? Did you make informed decisions based on the character, experience and political positions of the candidates in each race?
Of course you did.
Campaign big spenders seek to persuade voters to vote a certain way, and professional persuaders do their job well. They’re so good that voters often don’t even realize what’s going on.
Four of the state’s biggest companies — Amazon, Microsoft, T-Mobile and Boeing — spent a total of $823,000 on Washington’s midterm elections. Their support crossed partisan lines, ensuring they would have the ears of whoever won.
That’s a lot of money, but it’s little compared to the biggest spenders.
Various branches of the Service Employees International Union have contributed more than $6 million to campaigns, PACs, and committees for the 2022 cycle. That’s more than seven times what these four giants have spent. And unlike the companies, the SEIU was partisan. His money has supported Democratic-aligned candidates and causes. Two million dollars went directly to New Direction PAC, which supports Democratic candidates for the legislature.
Another union, the National Education Association, spent $500,000 to block the passage of an initiative that would have repealed the 7% capital gains tax that the Legislature passed in 2021.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington didn’t hold back either. He spent more than $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions on an unsuccessful attempt to decriminalize drugs with a ballot initiative. Expect that idea to come back, however, as the ACLU kept the funding going even after it was clear the initiative wouldn’t qualify this year.
Theoretically, Washingtonians can visit the Public Disclosure Commission’s website to find out how all that money was spent. High-level numbers are readily available, but disentangling the details and tracking the money quickly becomes difficult. Big donors funnel their money through super PACs and committees, creating a campaign finance nesting doll that obscures the truth despite Washington’s robust campaign finance transparency laws.
Money in politics has the potential to corrupt and divert public policy from the public good to the wants and desires of special interests like unions, special interest groups, and corporations. Donors don’t spend millions without expecting something in return.
So how much was your vote worth? There were 318,942 contributions totaling $127,790,245 for this year’s election. This equates to approximately $26 per registered voter. Was it worth it? Surely there are better ways to spend so much money serving Washingtonians.