Share this story...
Washington State Ballot, Washington ballot measures, 5th legislative district
Latest News

Who’s trying to buy your vote on Washington ballot measures?

(MyNorthwest photo)

A handful of people and lobbyist groups are spending mountains of money — both for and against all of the Washington ballot measures that voters will decide this November.

RELATED: Which controversial Washington ballot measures will win in November?

So who’s looking to buy your vote? Let’s dive in.


If passed, I-940 would require a “good faith” test to determine whether the use of deadly force by law enforcement is justified in specific cases. Also, police would be required to undergo “de-escalation” training, and officers would have to provide first aid.

The line in the sand has been drawn between those lobbying for more oversight of law enforcement, and people who believe that these measures would only serve to make the world a more dangerous place for police officers.

The gap between money raised for each respective side is significant, with the “Yes” campaign boasting upwards of $3.16 million in committee contributions as of publishing of this article. Comparatively, the opposition committees to this initiative have raised just $207,027.

The top contributors to the “Yes” side of the aisle include:

  • $2 million from “De-Escalate WA”
  • $600,000 from the Puyallup Tribe of Indians
  • $350,000 from the Washington State ACLU
  • $350,000 from local progressive think tank founder and early Amazon investor Nick Hanauer
  • $250,000 from the ACLU proper

The “No” campaign’s biggest individual contributors are mainly law enforcement representatives:

  • $163,505 from the Coalition for a Safer WA
  • $90,000 coming from the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild
  • $42,125 from Cops Against I-940
  • $17,025 from the WA Council of Police and Sheriffs
  • $15,000 from the King County Police Officer’s Guild.


Known commonly as the carbon fee, I-1631 would levy a $15 fee per metric ton of carbon, starting in 2020. That fee will increase by $2 every year after that. The revenue would benefit environmental programs related to climate change, overseen by an independent council.

Unsurprisingly, the battle between big donors for this rages between those with an interest in halting climate change, and the people whose wallets would be hit most by a carbon fee. Support from committees for the carbon fee totals over $11.2 million, barely half of the $22.1 raised by committees in opposition.

Top donors in favor of I-1631 include:

  • $10.49 million from Clear Air Clean Energy WA
  • $1.55 million from The Nature Conservancy
  • $1.4 million from the League of Conservation Voters
  • $1 million from Bill and Melinda Gates

A large portion of the money behind the opposition campaign comes from out-of-state oil interests, with top individual donors including:

  • $21.89 million from the “No on 1631” campaign sponsored by the Western States Petroleum Association
  • $7.2 million from Phillips 66
  • $6.39 million from BP America
  • $4.3 million from Andeavor
  • $1 million from American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers

For perspective, Washington state fossil fuel companies have contributed just $561,031.


I-1634 stands as the legislation that would prohibit specific taxes on groceries, and more specifically, sugary beverages. Here we see some of the biggest money of any state initiative, with the soda industry going all-in on contributions almost across the board.

The “Yes! To Affordable Groceries” committee (sponsored by the Washington Food Industry Association, a handful of Teamsters unions, and more) has raised over $20 million all on its own. After that, the soda money has come flowing in:

  • $9.65 million from Coca-Cola
  • $7.27 million from Pepsi
  • $3.02 million from Keurig Dr. Pepper
  • $237,212 from Red Bull

The committee money opposing the initiative totals $13,384 while top individual donors are scarce:

  • $6,000 from the Foundation for Healthy Generations
  • $1,000 from the American Cancer Society
  • $1,000 from El Centro De La Raza


Finally we have I-1639, a measure that represents what would be the most sweeping, comprehensive gun control legislation in any state. If passed, it would enact waiting periods and background checks on the purchase of semiautomatic weapons, an increase to the minimum age for purchasing semiautomatic weapons from 18 to 21, storage requirements for firearms, and a class-C felony for any gun owner whose firearm is used by an unlicensed party.

There are no huge surprises in terms of the donors on either side of this issue.

The “Yes” campaign has some big individual names behind it with the late Paul Allen contributing $1.22 million before his passing. Donors include:

  • $1.22 million from Paul Allen
  • $613,018 from Nick Hanauer
  • $613,018 from Leslie Hanauer
  • $500,000 Steve Ballmer
  • $500,000 from Connie Ballmer
  • Topping all of that is the $4.51 million raised by Safe Schools Safe Communities, a coalition run by a handful of local employees from the likes of Amazon, Uber, UW, and the State of Washington.

Opposition to I-1639 comes from a smattering of pro-gun activists, topped — to no one’s surprise — by $200,000 from the NRA.

  • $200,000 from the NRA
  • $46,613 from “Save Our Security” (a coalition run by the director of special projects for the 2nd Amendment Foundation)
  • $29,945 from Shall Not Be Infringed
  • $20,000 from Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

However you decide on each of these controversial initiatives, just remember: There’s always someone out there trying to buy your vote.

Campaign contribution totals from Ballotpedia and the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.

Most Popular