Are you the type of person who loves seeing political ads ad nauseam leading up to an election?
If so, you’re in luck: People for Jenny Durkan, the independent expenditure committee that’s supporting the former U.S. Attorney, plans to buy nearly half a million dollars of air time on local broadcast and cable television between now and the election. The large ad buy dwarfs other media spending in the race by either Durkan’s own campaign or that of opponent Cary Moon, and shows the kind of muscle People for Jenny Durkan will be flexing thanks to backing from some of Seattle’s biggest corporations and unions.
As an independent political committee, People for Jenny Durkan is to have no contact with Durkan or her campaign. With that difficult-to-enforce restriction in place, it and other PACs are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money from donors. The PAC has taken its task seriously, raising $725,000 from groups like the Chamber-of-Commerce led Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE); the Seattle Hospitality For Progress (bankrolled by hotels and restaurants); and SEIU 775.
Unlike with ads produced by Durkan’s own campaign—which to date have had significantly less money put behind them— People for Jenny Durkan didn’t publicize the new ads or their broadcast with a press release. But they’re out there. A PAC-sponsored ad that began airing Sunday goes negative right off the bat, saying that Moon would “scrap the plan requiring builders to include affordable housing” and would “allow homeless camping to spread.” Both those talking points have been in high rotation in Durkan’s stump speeches. The ad then goes on to say that Durkan would “hold developers accountable” and create “hundreds” more beds for the homeless.
Like most political ads, there are hints of truth in this one, but it’s far from a full airing of the issues. On the issue of homelessness, the ad refers back a column by Joel Connelly, in which he quotes Moon saying she would let homeless people “stay [in] parks until we have a place for them,” reiterating her opposition to the current sweeps policy. On the development question, the ad refers back to a story by, um, Seattle Weekly, noting that Moon has been recorded at neighborhood meetings saying she’d like to “restart the process” on HALA, or the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. However, the implication that Moon would get rid of the affordable-housing requirements included in HALA is misleading. She has said those requirements, called MHA, “should be continued.”
Meanwhile, while it may well be true that Durkan would hold developers accountable when in office, it is important to point out that the ad saying she will do so was paid for in large part by … developers. People for Jenny Durkan’s largest contributor is CASE. In turn, CASE’s contributors include large telecom companies, insurance companies, and developers. For example, the R.C. Hedreen Co., which developed Olive 8, the Grand Hyatt, and other downtown high-rises, pledged $20,000 to CASE; the affiliated Hedreen Holdings, LLC pledged another $20,000. Amazon and Vulcan are also big contributors.
It will be hard to miss the ads. The PAC’s filing says it intends to buy $40,000 in air time from KOMO, KIRO, and KING/KONG each; Fox 13 and Joe TV got another $17,000. It also put just under $40,000 toward cable advertising. And $75,500 was put into online advertising.
Spending on television advertising is public record and closely monitored by campaigns. According to figures complied by the Moon campaign, Moon has so far spent $17,720 on television advertising to the Durkan campaign’s $25,991. People for Durkan, so far, has spent $208,740, a figure sure to rise significantly with the plans described above.