Kyle Netterfield, a lawyer who lives in Bothell, Wa. recently received a call from Seattle City Council member David Della that went something like this:>"/>
Kyle Netterfield, a lawyer who lives in Bothell, Wa. recently received a call from Seattle City Council member David Della that went something like this: “I noticed that you have donated money to my opponent Tim Burgess, so I’m calling to see if you’d be willing to also support and donate to my campaign for reelection to the council with a donation of $500 to start…”
Netterfield, who donated $500 to Burgess in February, says he was insulted. “It struck me as underhanded that he would be calling me simply because I supported Tim,” Netterfield says. “I don’t live in Seattle. I’ve never been involved in a Seattle election in any way. There’s simply no reason for the candidate himself to be calling me other than he got my name off [Burgess’ contributors] list.”
Netterfield says he supports open disclosure of campaign contributions, “but there’s a side of it that’s somewhat proprietary,” he says. “Taking someone’s list suggests that Della thinks contributions are a way to curry favor.”
Another Burgess supporter — and longtime friend who spoke on condition of anonymity — says he also got the call. “I was surprised. I was amused. I did send [the voice message] along to Tim.”
But this contributor, who along with his wife each gave Burgess $700, says it could be a “smart strategy” that’s not just about the money. “Frankly, I think it’s to get people to donate to both candidates so that it won’t appear that Tim’s support is all that strong,” he says.
Neither Burgess supporter plans to answer Della’s request for dough. As of July 16, Della had raised more than $166,000, Burgess more than $147,000. Asked if calling Burgess’ donors is part of Della’s strategy, Della’s political consultant Michael Grossman, notes that his client has upwards of 900 individual donors. “We are calling all sorts of people. We have a fundraising operation that’s trying to send off Mr. Burgess’ deep pockets,” Grossman says, adding that it's “specious” to think there’s a trend based on the anecdotes of a couple of people.
Burgess, for his part, isn’t commenting. “I want to stay on the high road and focus on [Della’s] failed leadership on city council,” he says.
Local political consultant Blair Butterworth, says dialing off your competitor’s list can be a smart strategy, “as long as you have some sense about it.”
“A lot of people who give play both sides. But you don’t call the guy’s mother just because she gave to the other person.” he says. “There are a finite number of people who give in these races anyway. Everybody brings a few new people to the dance.”
But Cathy Allen, another well-known consultant, says that although taking the contribution lists of many candidates and tracking “donor history” is common practice, simply calling down your competitor’s list is frowned upon, “because it’s proprietary stuff even though it’s public information.”
Plus, Allen says, it’s also not a smart strategy. “You want to find the best list and truthfully your competitor is not going to have the best list. Only about 15 percent of donors will give to both their candidate and the competitor. Usually if you pick one person you stick with them.”