Rantz: Nick Hanauer hates big money, but will buy election

Mar 3, 2017, 5:25 AM | Updated: 11:09 am
Nick Hanauer...
(AP file photo)
(AP file photo)

File this in the hypocrisy drawer: a billionaire activist who supports getting big money out of elections is using his own big money to single-handedly buy an election.

Related: Seattle CEO pushing for $28 minimum wage, only pays $9

Entrepreneur and investor Nick Hanauer donated a whopping $10,000 to the Honest Elections initiative (an awful idea) that aimed to get “wealthy and political elite” from having such influence over elections. They did this by successfully instituting tax payer-funded democracy vouchers that most of us already lost. In fact, after the initiative passed thanks to the help of Hanauer, the organization proudly proclaimed that they “took on big money, and won”

“I-122 is a good first step toward campaign finance reform,” Hanauer posted on his Facebook page.

So color me surprised when I read in The Seattle Times that Hanauer has promised to fully and single-handedly fund Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s new property-tax levy to combat homelessness. The aim is to get on the August ballot.

“The thing that makes our contribution great is I can throw down and say I’m going to run an initiative. I can go all out,” Hanauer told the Times. “I’m going to donate enough money to that campaign to make sure that we would win. It’s so far below the amount of money that I care about that.”

Wait. I thought big money is bad. I thought that kind of election buying is corrupt. Oh. Sorry. I forgot. It’s only corrupt when the other side does it.

I don’t fault Hanauer for bankrolling the campaign. If he’s passionate about it, he should. I don’t demonize the wealthy the way a lot of activists do. I have no doubt that Hanauer worked hard and earned the money he’s made; he should be able to spend it as he sees fit. I think the wealthy shouldn’t be punished and kept from participating in campaigns because less wealthy activists can’t figure out how to earn the level of money that would give them influence.

I do, however, criticize Hanauer for his hypocritical stance. You support a campaign to get rid of the wealthy’s influence on elections while using your wealth to “make sure that we would win”? How is that consistent? It’s not. He’s helped bankroll a number of initiatives and I imagine, when they pass, he’d call that a success. He’s happy he’s spent the money to pass initiatives that he thinks better serves the community. In other words, his success shows his position that big money is somehow bad is … well, it’s just wrong.

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Rantz: Nick Hanauer hates big money, but will buy election