Who paid for the Prop. 1 campaign?

June 2, 2014

Disclosure filings show major donors would have profited from Prop. 1 spending

On April 22nd, the people of King County voted on Proposition 1, a ballot measure to increase regressive sales and car tab taxes to prevent a plan proposed by County Executive Dow Constantine from cutting community bus services by 16% (down from his planned 17% cut after Metro reported windfall revenues of $32 million).  To the dismay of many in the King County establishment, the measure failed by a wide margin.

The campaign finance filings for the pro and anti campaigns are now available.  A review shows that many of the major donors to the pro Proposition 1 campaign, especially unions, would have directly profited from its increases in public spending.  Here’s what the numbers show:

Finding 1: The pro campaign outspent the anti side by 55 to one.

The most striking finding of the disclosure reports is that the pro campaign massively outspent the anti campaign.  The anti campaign spent $12,487.  The pro campaign spent $687,785, outspending their opponents by a margin of 55 to one.

The finding is a blow to those pushing for government-funded campaign financing.  Advocates of giving tax money to political candidates base their proposal on the assumption that private campaign giving corrupts the election process.  The vote on Proposition 1 shows that the side that spends more money, even by large amounts, does not always prevail.

Finding 2:  The largest pro campaign donors, mainly public-sector unions, would have profited from Proposition 1 spending.

Many of the pro side’s donations came from entities and businesses that would have directly profited from Proposition 1’s increase in public spending.

The largest single donor to the pro side was AFSCME-WFSE Local 1488, which gave $50,000.  The second-largest donor was the Transportation Choices Coalition, an advocacy group that lists King Country Metro, Sound Transit and City of Seattle among its partners and funders.

The third largest donor to the pro side was the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents Metro bus drivers.

In December, the Amalgamated Transit Union rejected a pay-increase contract offered by Metro managers, arguing the County should give its members more money.  Proposition 1’s regressive tax increases would have authorized County leaders to collect $130 million more per year from people living in King County.  That revenue would have allowed County officials, in renewed contract talks, to give executives at the Amalgamated Transit Union all or nearly all of the increased money they are seeking.

Finding 3:  Nearly one-fifth of Proposition 1 campaign money came from mandatory dues.

In Washington state, unions receive money from mandatory dues taken from worker paychecks and transferred each month into union bank accounts.  When union executives make pledges to political campaigns, the money they give is taken from worker paychecks.

Workers in Washington state are not protected by a Right to Work law, which in other states gives workers the right not to join a union and still keep their jobs.  For many public-sector workers, union membership is mandatory, and the money transferred each month to the union comes from public payroll budgets.

In the case of Proposition 1, public money was deducted from worker paychecks and given to a political campaign to support passage of a ballot measure to increase regressive taxes.  Money from the new taxes would have gone to fund a bus drivers’ contract that would have increased Metro’s public payroll.  Amalgamated Transit Union dues are deducted from the same payroll.  Passage of Proposition 1 would have increased the amount of public money, through mandatory dues, transferred each month to the bank accounts of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Finding 4: Nearly one-fifth of Proposition 1 campaign money came from just 11 unions.

Nearly one-fifth of all pro Proposition 1 campaign donations, a total of $135,000, came from just eleven unions.  Examples of the largest donors include Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 ($20,000), and Laborers Local 242, Laborers Local 440, Aerospace Machinists #751, SEIU 1199 NW and SEIU 775 NW, which gave $5,000 each.

These 11 Union alone outspent their anti Proposition 1 opponents by more than 10 to one.

Workers were not asked individually whether they thought part of their wages should go to pay for the Proposition 1 campaign.  Many union members likely found themselves in the odd position of voting against Proposition 1, so their sales tax and car fee costs would not go up, while executives at their own union used money from paycheck deductions to promote the opposite cause.

Conclusion:  Full disclosure of political spending in the Proposition 1 campaign was not available until after the election, so the public was not aware of whether and to what extent donors on the pro side, especially unions, stood to profit from the increases in regressive taxation under the measure they were advocating.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has announced his own plan to increase regressive taxation in the city, and another political campaign may soon be under way.  It will be important for the public to be informed, to the extent possible, of the relationship between campaign donors and who will benefit from higher public spending under Mayor Murray’s plan.


Finding 2 is incorrect

The Bus Drivers Union voted down a contract with takeaways related to rules and quality of life. The Bus driver union is looking for schedules to be fixed. Have you thought about looking at upper management at Metro? But Im guessing your "Finding" on this is actually more of an opinion, or concluded from the one-sided media. If you don't actually know the facts, don't report them as facts.

Heres a fact: Money is needed to fix service that is unreliable because there is little time to turn back at the end of the line, cause the bus to be late on the next trip. The drivers need a few min to go use the restroom, or eat some food. Unlike office workers, we can be on the go 8+ hours per day.

Fact: Bus drivers would turn down a pay increase to see improved schedules, improved working conditions and more safety/security along the system.

Trying being less one-sided.....and you might actually find "facts".

Prop 1

And that is precisely why even FDR opposed collective bargaining/unions for public sector unions. He was right then; he is right now. An unholy alliance.


The union members did not turn down pay raises! More money was not the reason the offer was turned down! The membership wanted to address the schedule problems, and certain language in the contract. We all can agree that drivers are compensated well for the work they do. It is a very challenging, very dangerous, and very unforgiving job. Did you know being a transit driver is the 4th most dangerous job in the world?

Thanks for commenting

Thanks for commenting anonymously on this important issue. If accessing more money was not the reason for Metro's labor contract offer being rejected by the drivers' union, and salary and benefit costs make up about 70% of Metro's operating budget, why do King County officials say they need more money to maintain current bus service? If money is not a problem for Metro's largest cost item, why the apparent need to cut bus service to the public?