A congressional seat worth millions? Candidates conducting mega-campaigns for 6th District seat

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

Republican Bill Driscoll of Tacoma raised $1.57 million through mid-July in his quest to fill the 6th Congressional District seat, according to the latest records filed online by the Federal Election Commission.

Democrat Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor had raised $1.55 million with the same goal in mind: to represent a 325,000-voter district that includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and to replace 18-term incumbent Democrat Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, who is not seeking re-election.

With more than $3 million raised between them, Kilmer and Driscoll were separated by just $27,457, campaign reports show.

Their fundraising similarities end there.

Driscoll, 50, the great-grandson of Frederick Weyerhaeuser, founder in 1901 of the Weyerhaeuser Co., has pumped $1 million of his own money into his campaign via two half-million-dollar loans.

He received $532,233 in individual contributions that included $75,950 in non-itemized contributions of less than $200 that are not broken down into individual donors as part of the FEC records.

He had received $18,000 from political action committees, including $1,000 from the Green Diamond Resource Co. PAC of Seattle and $600 in Republican Party contributions, and he outright contributed $20,000 to his own campaign.

Kilmer, 38, a Port Angeles native who is 26th District state senator and vice president of the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County, has himself not contributed a dime to his election effort as of Friday.

But his wife, Jennifer, contributed $150 when she bought a painting at a fund­raising event.

According to FEC records, Kilmer received $994,291 in overall individual contributions, including $176,800 in non-itemized contributions — nearly twice what Driscoll raised in the same category.

Ironically, Kilmer’s contributions include $4,000 from William T. Weyerhaeuser of Tacoma that was donated to the Democrat before Driscoll entered the race in April.

After Driscoll, a Marine Corps veteran, announced his candidacy, Weyerhaeuser family members donated $26,000 — including $7,500 from William T. Weyerhaeuser, who holds stock in a Weyerhaeuser Co. subsidiary, among other interests, according to Forbes magazine.

Kilmer also received $545,265 from 85 political action committees — nearly 30 times what Driscoll has garnered.

Driscoll, a businessman who sits on the board of Potlatch Corp., a forest products company, said Friday his net worth is $55 million.

“I made a commitment that when I got into this, I was going to run a competitive race, and as the newcomer, I’ve been surprised at the degree to which the system supports incumbents in terms of the ability of incumbents to raise money from [political action committees] based on historical relationships,” Driscoll told the Peninsula Daily News.

“My experience is it’s just about impossible for a newcomer to come in and raise money to run a race.”

Driscoll said his goal is to match Kilmer in campaign funding, not to “overwhelm” the race with his own money.

But Kilmer said Friday that Driscoll had violated a pledge he made when he entered the race to spend only $500,000 of his own money to get elected.

Kilmer said 3,100 individuals have now contributed to his campaign, many in the range of $5 to $10 each.

“I think it’s important for a public servant to keep his word,” Kilmer said.

“He made a decision to break that promise.”

In Driscoll’s campaign announcement, he said Kilmer, who also announced his candidacy in April, had raised more than $350,000 and was approaching $500,000.

“I’m investing $500,000 in my campaign, which should bring us even with Sen. Kilmer,” Driscoll said in his announcement.

“The rest of my campaign will be funded by individual donations, but now that we’re on equal footing, let the best candidate win.”

“It was our strong desire not to put more in but leave it open,” Driscoll said Friday.

“My intent was to very much run a competitive race, and that’s what I’ve done,” he said.

“I’m essentially matching his PAC money,” Driscoll added.

“People have to look at PAC money and ask what PAC donors are expecting in return.”

Kilmer said he is proud of the support he has received from political action committees and other groups, including the American Hospital Association, firefighters and millworkers.

“They’ve come to my campaign because they believe I will get folks back to work and that I will get Congress back to work, too.”

Kilmer received $4,000 in three itemized contributions from the Weyerhaeuser family of Tacoma and 22 contributions from Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Those who were listed in Federal Election Commission records who contributed $500 or more through mid-July included Howard Ruddell, Port Angeles, two individual contributions of $2,500 each, and James Cammack, Port Angeles; Earl Archer, George Frandsen and Sylvia Hancock, Sequim; and Carla Ellis and Nelson Ludlow, Port Townsend, all of whom donated $1,000 each.

The donations to Kilmer also included $500 each from Dan Wilder, Port Angeles; Bonnie Ludlow, Port Ludlow; and Jeanette Woodruff, Port Townsend.

Kilmer’s political action committee contributors include the Makah Tribal Council, $5,000; the Quileute tribe and Quileute Indian Nation, $3,750; the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, $2,000; and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, $1,895 in cash and in-kind contributions.

Contributors from Clallam and Jefferson counties who gave $500 or more in itemized contributions to Driscoll’s campaign were Mark Witte, Sequim, $1,000; Roger Loney, Port Townsend, $500; and Norm Schaaf, Port Angeles, $500.

The FEC records are available at http://tinyurl.com/pdn-donors.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 20. 2012 6:02PM
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