A Public Disclosure Commission report released Friday shows corporate, union and special interest group money has paid for the lion's share of efforts to get initiatives on the November general election ballot.
"The citizen initiative was once seen as a remedy for the domination of industry and other powerful interests over the legislative process," the report concluded. "Today, contribution and expenditure reports filed with the PDC reveal that these same well-funded interests -- corporations, unions, trade and professional associations -- use paid signature gatherers to accomplish their goals."
For the six initiatives expected to be on the ballot in November, individual contributions represented less than the majority of contributions for each signature-gathering campaign, and only a fraction for some.
w I-1100: The highest percentage of corporate sponsorship for an initiative went to Initiative 1100. The measure would close state liquor stores and allow liquor sales by private businesses, which would be allowed to purchase liquor directly from manufacturers.
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The campaign is being run by a group called Modernize Washington, but more than 99 percent of the contributions -- nearly $1.2 million -- came from retailer Costco.
More than $1 million was spent gathering about 396,000 signatures -- about 155,000 more than are needed to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
w I-1105: Initiative 1105 also would privatize liquor sales, but require retailers to buy liquor from wholesalers. That initiative is funded entirely by two beverage distributors, the report shows. Young's Market Co. LLC contributed nearly $1.2 million and Odom Southern Holdings LLC kicked in $967,000 to the campaign.
More than $1.8 million was spent collecting 359,000 signatures to get I-1105 on the ballot.
w I-1053: A Tim Eyman initiative to restore the requirement for a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature to raise taxes received 84 percent of supporting contributions from corporations, political action committees or professional and trade associations, according to the report.
Individual contributions made up only 16 percent of the $702,000 in contributions collected by Eyman's Voters Want More Choices group for Initiative 1053.
Companion group Citizens for Responsible Spending generated 96 percent of its $310,000 in contributions from corporations, political action committees or professional and trade associations.
Oil companies are among the top financial supporters of the anti-tax initiative with BP Corp. North America giving $65,000; Tesoro Companies Inc. contributing $65,000; Conoco Phillips giving $50,000; and Equilon, a joint venture of Shell Oil and Texaco, giving $50,000.
Other big donors include the Washington State Farm Bureau, $50,000, and Washington Restaurant Association, $59,000.
Eyman turned in about 330,000 petition signatures to secure I-1053's spot on the ballot. Collectively, Voters Want More Choices and Citizens For Responsible Spending paid about $830,000 for signature gathering.
w I-1082: An initiative proposing to privatize the state's workers compensation insurance system received 99 percent of its financial support from corporations, political action committees or professional and trade associations.
Initiative 1082 was sponsored by Trent Matson, political affairs director for the Building Industry Association of Washington, and the association contributed more than $507,000, or about 53 percent, of the $959,000 raised by the initiative campaign.
Insurance company Liberty Mutual Group was the second-largest contributor to the workers comp privatization measure, donating $300,000.
The I-1082 campaign spent $823,000 gathering 345,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
w I-1098: Nearly 60 percent of the money in support of Initiative 1098 proposing to create a state income tax for people with incomes above $200,000 came from chapters of the Service Employees International Union and other unions, according to the PDC report.
Bill Gates Sr. was another top contributor, giving $100,000. About 40 percent of the contributions were listed as coming from individuals, which would include donors like Gates.
Of the $1.1 million in contributions, about $688,000 was spent gathering 351,000 signatures.
I-1107: Lastly, an initiative overturning the recently enacted sales tax on candy, pop and bottled water received more than 99 percent of its funding from the American Beverage Association, which has paid $2.7 million to support the measure.
Of that, $1.7 million was spent gathering 395,000 signatures for Initiative 1107 in a period of about three weeks.
PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said initiative campaigns are considered political action committees for campaign finance purposes. That means there are no limits on how much any person or organization can donate to support or oppose an initiative.
She said 2010 has been an unusual year because of the number of initiatives that will appear on the ballot, and because money started rolling in earlier than the commission typically sees.
"We wanted to take a look and see what the money was spent on," she said.
The commission staff didn't compare this year's numbers with previous years so they can't definitively identify any trends, but Anderson pointed to the report's conclusion voicing concern that what is supposed to be a citizen process is being overwhelmed by powerful interests.
The commission previously recommended the Legislature put a ceiling on the amount of money that can be contributed to political action committees supporting or opposing candidates for public office, but nothing happened.
"It didn't go anywhere," she said.