Monday, October 21, 2013

Hiding the Coal Money

A follow up on my last post about coal political money coming into Whatcom County to influence Whatcom County races. My only angle was on this was doing some research on why Corbin Robertson and Quintana Minerals would be interested in Whatcom County. I left off that Quintana Minerals made $286,650 in political donations in 2012 alone including $12,500 to Ted Cruz and $12,500 to John Boehner ( Corbin Robertson Chair of Quintana donated $50,800 to Boehner for Speaker Committee and Barbara Robertson chipped in $11,000 (

Besides donating $50,000 to the Whatcom County raises, Powder River Basin coal miner Cloud Peak Energy has been supporting Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, the activist front group in favor of the coal terminal proposal

Global Coal Sales donation of $50,000 was likely a pass through donation as the company revenues were only a bit over $500,000 last year. Coal empire billionaire Wayne Boich is listed as the company contact.

With Washington State Public Disclosure Commission rules political donations must be reported in a timely manner. Reporters routinely comb over PDC reports for easy stories or hints about candidate leanings on issues. If one reads newspapers or blogs about politics, the coal money would not be a surprise.

There is an interesting twist though about the coal money directed at Whatcom County races. Independent expenditures are required to identify their top 5 donors on political advertisements. The coal money was given to Save Whatcom. But then Save Whatcom in turn gave all the money to Whatcom First and Whatcom First has put out political advertisements indicating the ads were paid for by Save Whatcom. Hence, the advertisements don't say what they should "Paid for by Global Coal Sales, Cloud Peak Energy, Corbin Robertson, SSA Marine".

Whatcom County GOPers and Tea Partiers in Whatcom County have been agitated that Washington Conservation Voters has been doing political mailings funded by non Whatcom County donors. But here is the difference: the Conservation Voters mail pieces and door fliers state the top 5 donors on the advertisement consistent with State law.

Under our freedom of speech Supreme Court interpretation political donations from outside very interested companies and individuals will likely continue. This is nothing new here in Whatcom County or elsewhere. But under Washington State law, if one wants to exercise ones freedom of speech, one is required to let people know who you are or who is funding your activities. However, the creation of shadow political action committees allows avoidance of revealing the funding except for the most diligent voters.  

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