I really don’t think looking at the Public Disclosure Commission campaign donations really tells the true story or who bought what politician. There are a lot of other, better ways to buy influence that are completely off the books and largely untraceable.
How about the classic job offer? The politician serves their term then, surprise! Lands a wonderful job with one of the companies they regulated (or visa versa). With the federal government this happens so frequently it’s a cliché. Ajit Pai, for example. The military industrial complex is rife with examples. The fabled revolving door.
Does the promise of a job affect their votes or policy decisions in any way? Of course not! Ajit Pai is repealing Net Neutrality out of concern for consumers, of course. The fact that he used to work for Verizon (and will likely work there again, soon) has nothing at all to do with it.
I find it hard to believe the same exact dynamic isn’t played out here in local politics – albeit on a smaller, less grandiose scale. What’s Marilyn Strickland got lined up, post Mayor? Or how about her relatives? The “payment” doesn’t necessarily have to go in a straight line to the politician. Jobs for relatives are commonplace and just as useful if you want to bend a politician to your viewpoint.
Or how about a hypothetical: you’ve got a politician with a day job – say a home appraiser. Douchebag oligarch X wants to “buy” the politician. He’s got a friend in a bank, and so he gets the friend and maybe a couple others to steer all their loan appraisals to the politician at their day job. Then on the sly maybe months later, he mentions this fact to the trusted public servant. No out and out quid pro quo. The guy does this steering out of the “kindness of his heart.”
So now the politician/appraiser has a significant portion of their business wrapped up in clients steered his way by the benevolent buddy. What’s he gonna do when the oligarch buddy says jump?
There are lots of other ways to accomplish the same thing – condos in Maui, travel, real estate, cars – ok, and hookers (That’s an all-time classic I just had to throw in) – the list of potential bribes is endless. And to the largest extent, it’s all almost impossible to find unless you know precisely where to look, and done properly, is virtually untraceable.
These are only a few of the most obvious scenarios/methods that I figure are quite likely to be taking place here in good ol’ little Tacoma. Do you really think we’re immune or above this sort of stuff? We are, after all, a microcosm of the US as a whole. And I really think because of the humongous amount of dollars that pass through Tacoma in international trade, we’re probably farther along the path to perdition than most US cities. There’s a tremendous amount of foreign and domestic money here in town and that attracts politicians like flies on shit.
So the PDC stuff really only skims the surface.
The Chamber of Commerce (AKA, our local oligarchs) are steering the SS. Tacoma – that much is crystal clear. How they accomplish it is mostly done behind the curtain with smoke and mirrors, and likely will remain that way.
Check back in about eight years and then it’ll be easier to figure out precisely who bought Woodards.
Perhaps I’m too cynical?