Cantwell's cash may set record
Seattle Times Washington bureau
U.S. Senate hopeful Maria Cantwell has spent more of her personal fortune than any political candidate in state history and is on pace to set a record for campaign spending in Washington, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission yesterday.
The Democratic former congresswoman and RealNetworks executive has spent $3.7 million - 87 percent of her campaign fund - from her own fortune. Including other contributions, she has raised a total of $4.2 million as of Aug. 30 - easily eclipsing the $2.3 million war chest of incumbent Republican Sen. Slade Gorton and more than doubling the $1.8 million fund of her Democratic rival, Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn.
Cantwell has already spent all but $37,000 of her campaign fund, much of it on a three-month barrage of television advertisements. She has also chartered a bus to travel the state and paid for "everything from postage to salaries to telephone bills to envelopes to paid media," Cantwell spokesman Ellis Conklin said.
If Cantwell wins her party's nomination, Democratic operatives expect her to spend a similar amount between the Sept. 19 primary and the general election. At that rate, she would set a record for campaign fund-raising in a Washington political race. The current record was set by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who raised $5.6 million in her 1998 race, outspending Republican Linda Smith, who came in No. 2 with $5.1 million. The No. 3 spender is Gorton, who spent $4.8 million to recapture his seat in 1994.
Cantwell's use of the stock she acquired as a technology executive has drawn criticism from her rivals, who accuse her of trying to buy a seat in the Senate.
"I find it disturbing that there is only going to be room for millionaires in the Senate," Senn told The Seattle Times editorial board recently.
In the most recent fund-raising period, from July 1 through Aug. 30, Cantwell raised $2.4 million, nearly all of it her own money; Senn raised $260,000; and Gorton raised $806,513. "She puts her money where her mouth is," Conklin said of Cantwell. "She's not taking any (political-action committee) money. As a result, she's not going to be beholden to any special corporate interest. I don't think the voters are going to see this as some sinister tactic."
Cantwell, who has said she favors public financing of political campaigns, has downplayed the size of her own contributions. Asked about it last week in separate editorial board meetings with The Seattle Times and the Post-Intelligencer, she referred only to the $1.7 million she had given as of June 30.
"If it's OK to self-finance and buy this election, why can't she be completely forthcoming about what she's put into this race?," Gorton spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said.
An August poll of 445 voters by Elway Research showed Cantwell and Gorton tied at 40 percent in a one-on-one race.
In a three-way primary poll by Elway, with a margin of error of 4.7 percentage points, Gorton had 37 percent, Cantwell 30 percent and Senn 12 percent.
"The only reason we haven't been able to beat Slade Gorton is that he always grossly outspends his opponents," Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said, "and that's not going to happen this year."
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