Special interest funds driving more political campaigns

Voters can gain insight into campaigns by knowing who is contributing big money.

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Elections for seats in the state Legislature used to be regional, even local, affairs. Not anymore.

The race to fill a vacated seat in the state Senate is being waged statewide as if the future of the free world were at stake. The world isn’t in danger, but special-interest groups are worried about their futures.

To this point, a total of more than $2.5 million has flowed into the two campaigns.

The only votes that will count are of those who live in the 26th Legislative District — the southeastern Kitsap Peninsula from Bremerton and Port Orchard to Gig Harbor in Pierce County — but campaign cash is being raised everywhere else.

The Walla Walla County Republican Party hosted a fundraiser for Jan Angel here on Monday night. Similar fundraisers have taken place elsewhere for the Democrat’s candidate, Nathan Schlicher.

Angel has raised $624,000, according to The Seattle Times, while Schlicher — who was appointed to the seat — has raised $472,000. The rest of the cash is being raised and spent by third-party groups (aka special-interest groups) seeking to tilt control of the Senate to either Democrats or the Senate Majority Caucuses (Republicans and two conservative Democrats).

It’s unsettling, particularly since out-of-state interests are heavy contributors.

This is just one race. What’s going to happen next year when at least half the Senate seats will be up for grabs? Whatever happens, it’s going to be unseemly.

Unfortunately, this type of outrageous spending by special-interest groups — on both ends of the political spectrum — is not limited to Washington state. It’s a sign of the times and our highly partisan, win-at-all costs political climate.

Those who want to spend money promoting candidates or causes certainly have the right. It’s free speech.

But voters would be doing themselves a favor by considering where candidates are getting their money. The information is public. Campaign contributions can be found on websites and newspapers often report that information.

Those pouring the cash into campaigns aren’t necessarily saints or sinners, but they all have an agenda.

Brace yourself for 2014 and the free flow of special-interest money.

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