Edmonds Election Watch 2011: National realtors group makes $16K independent expenditure in support of Earling campaign

Dave Earling

Edmonds City Councilmember DJ Wilson notified the media Wednesday that the National Association of Realtors has made a $16,000-plus independent expenditure on behalf of Cooper’s opponent, Dave Earling.

Wilson says the expenditure filed Wednesday morning with the state Public Disclosure Commission is “the largest independent expenditure for any candidate in Washington State to date for the 2011 elections,” and “the largest amount of any independent expenditure ever in the City of Edmonds for as long as the Public Disclosure Commission has been keeping records.”

Like the name implies, independent expenditures are done independently of the candidates, who have no control over the groups who are supporting them. They also are not subject to campaign donation limits (in Edmonds, the limit is $500 for city council and mayoral races.)

In this case, the expenditure is paying for direct mailings to voters and polling and consultant expenses, for a total of $16,963.05, according to the PDC report.

Eric Earling, Dave Earling’s campaign manager (and also his son), said via email Wednesday that the Earling campaign became aware of the National Association of Realtors’ expenditure “earlier this week when reviewing the PDC website’s data for this race.  While it’s not something that we might prefer to have happen, that’s the right of any such interested group under Edmonds campaign finance laws and no individual campaign can control it,” Earling said.

“We’re focused on running our own, very strong campaign through November 8th and feel very good about the response from Edmonds citizens interested in new leadership in City Hall based on Dave Earling’s strong victory in the primary and the public’s continued dissatisfaction with the status quo,” he said. “Beyond that, we view any independent expenditures that might occur in this race, on our side or Mike Cooper’s, about the same as we view Mike Cooper’s own campaign activity: we can’t control it so are staying focused on running the best possible campaign for Dave Earling.”

Dave Earling spent 12 years on the Edmonds City Council, including five years as president. He previously owned and operated Edmonds Realty.

Wilson, who is running for re-election, is also supporting Mayor Mike Cooper’s efforts to retain his position as Edmonds mayor,

  1. The income of the membership of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is commission based. Commissions go up with an increase in property values (good for realtors and where they spend the money). Property tax revenue goes up with an increase in property values (good for the city). Personal net worth goes up with an increase in property values (good for homeowners). In other words, an increase in property values is a win-win-win.

    So the NAR spends (according to DJ) an unprecendented amount of money on a candidate who they obviously feel is going to bring about the win-win-win and DJ thinks this is a bad thing?!?!

  2. Note: DJ Wilson did not say in the email he sent whether this was good or bad. He did say he thought it was newsworthy.

  3. I’d like to hear from all of those who criticized Wilcox on the $600 independent expenditure he received. $16,000…WOW! For a local election. This large expenditure makes me wonder why?

  4. There are many possible reasons why NAR gave this much money. There’s nothing in Scott Hopper’s theory of motivations you could disprove. I could come up with a lot more (some sinister) that nobody could disprove, but what would be the point?

    The bottom line is that large donations buy votes and/or influence. There’s no other reason to donate. If we give Earling and NAR the benefit of the doubt, NAR is buying votes. This money will buy a barrage of one-sided mailings that Cooper will not have enough money to respond to.

    I find it sad that we may end up with the best mayor money can buy.

  5. Agreed, Joe. The majority of voters will vote by reviewing the last set of mailers they get, the last commercial they’ve seen, the last spin email that has been passed to them, etc. etc.

  6. This is not the first time Mr. Earling has spent or received a record amount seeking election.

    When Teresa interviewed him how he came to be on Council, He responded by saying that someone had told him he should run, he did and won. Well, folks, welcome to the land of Earling speak in which the truth sometimes get highly confusing. Here’s a more accurate story than that told to Teresa.

    Earling first sought appointment to a vacant seat. He was one of two finalists. There were many many 3-3 votes for Earling and Mr. Barry Burch so the frustrated Council asked Mayor Naughton to pick the winner.. He chose Steve Dwyer!! Go figure, Mr Earlimg was really upset and rightfully so, but he was just getting started in his hunger to be on the Council.

    His next effort was to challenge an incumbent Council person Joanne Jaech. Earling reportedly broke the record for the most amount ever spent up to that time for an Edmonds Council seat. He lost again and was he ever furious. He charged dirty politics etc. and behaved very grumpily.

    Finally, he ran against Al Rutledge and won. That’s how he came to be elected. Ms. Jaech retired and endorsed David.

    This story is from the memories of mysefl and a couple of others active in city affairs then. One of the three of us thinks that possibly the Dwyer and Jaech stories are reversed herein;.If anyone can shed more light on this let’s hear it.

    Its a pretty safe bet that David will be elected. We need a capable administrator and he certainly has that ability. Hopefully we won’t end up with another Council/Mayor power struggle. I believe Mr. Earling is capable of doing a good job, and hopefully he will and his health will survive the strain. He will need to learn to work with the Council without trying to dominate if he is to be successful and our city can continue to get itself reorganized.

    And I am confident he will not tolerate any more improper meddling by DJ Wilson. DJ should resign for (1) his meddling in the Cole affair along with his (2) failure to disclose his full and complete involvemnet and finally (3) voting on the issue after secretly attempting to prepare the legal papers involved. The legal stuff would have been far better left to qualified attorneys. This escapade will probably end up costing the city many 1000s.

  7. WOW! Ray! If I wrote a story about shipping containers, could you turn actually use to support your platform against DJ Wilson? Your ability to turn every discussion into a DJ Wilson discussion is impressive!

  8. Priya,

    What is most important here is the general welfare of our city, financially and otherwise. And we need up front and above board leadership from our elected officials.

  9. Priya (regarding #3),

    It makes me sad, that the “spirit” of the laudable intent to minimize large campaign donations by special interests in Edmonds is so easily circumvented. It makes me sad that our national campaign finance process, that so much favors large influence by large corporations and special interest groups over that of individual voters, has “touched ground” in local municipal elections. So to answer your question… I am sad.

    And by the way (just for accuracy), Mr. Wilcox received a $700 independent expenditure (not $600) and an additional $500 contribution from the Master Builders Association.

  10. To the supporters of Dave Earling who are cheering this news:

    The next big outside contribution (and there will be more) may be for a candidate you don’t like so much. This is a terrible blow to free and fair elections regardless of who you support.

    If Mr. Earling does win this election, I will never believe he did so fairly. Legally, yes – fairly, no.

  11. Does anyone really believe that if Dave Earling wins the general election after a decisive victory in the primary election because of his superior credentials, and a continuing fiasco at city hall, its because he raised more campaign funds??? As the saying goes :Give me a break!

  12. Ron:

    You and I both know that only a very small hand full of people follow local politics as closely as you and I do. Most people vote in accordance to the last mailer they see.

  13. I don’t know. Unless Mr. Earling starts kicking puppies off of cliffs I’m not sure he could try and lose this election at this point.

  14. Decisive? The primary result was 53% for Dave Earling, 47% against, a margin of 554 votes out of 9984. In the last Edmonds Mayoral Election, 14,500 people voted. If those trends hold, at least 4500 more voters will vote in the general election. Earling’s margin represents 12% of those votes.

    I haven’t seen any evidence that Cooper created the “fiasco”. There is evidence that Earling supporters are involved. Employee protection laws prevent Cooper from talking about what he’s done to solve it and why. But the majority of voters who don’t pay much attention may not understand this.

    Earling must disagree with Ron Wambolt and Michael Young about whether he needs another $14,000 to add to his war chest that was already overwhelming Cooper’s. If he doesn’t think he needs it, he should do the honorable thing and return the money. That would uphold the spirit of the Edmonds campaign finance law.

  15. Joe:

    I don’t know where you got your numbers. And the 12% is also a mystery. The correct ones are:

    Earling 5,269 52.8%

    Cooper 3,912 39.2%

    Earling decisively defeated Cooper.

  16. Joe – at the risk of being argumentative it isn’t really possible for Earling to give money back when he never had it. They paid for mailings. They didn’t give him cash.

    Also, in this day and age a winning margin of a point or two is considered a mandate. So yes, even 5 points is decisive. I guess we will all have to vote, wait, and see.

  17. Joe:

    Your numbers may be accurate, but not if its the 2011 Primary you are talking about. Below are the numbers copied and pasted from the county website.
    51/51 100.00%
    Vote Count Percent
    Dave Earling 5,269 52.77%
    Mike Cooper 3,912 39.18%
    Roger Hertrich 780 7.81%
    Write-In 23 0.23%
    Total 9,984 100.00%

  18. Michael, yes I think you are being argumentative. Earling could have told NRG he didn’t want their help. He chose to accept it. If your point is simply that he waited too long and no longer has that option, you may be right.

    Ron, this is getting tedious. You’re going to need to be specific about what you think is wrong with my numbers. Copying and pasting data from the link I posted is not helping me understand you.

  19. Joe:

    As you probably know, independent expenditures are not something any candidate can return, since they never receive them to begin with. Mr. Earling can’t even pick up the phone and ask the Realtors not to do whatever it is they choose to do with their money outside of a direct contribution to his campaign, because that would violate the law by creating a conversation in which action on the expenditure is in some way coordinated.

    Tedious is right, but you are wrong. The link you posted is to the 2007 election results.

  20. Ron, are you saying that if Earling publicly asked NRG to not spend that money that he would be violating the law? I find it hard to believe that such a request would be considered coordinating expenditures. Perhaps you or someone else can cite an authority on this. If you’re right, that would be interesting.

    I posted two links in comment #17. The first link goes right to the August 16th, 2011 Primary Election results. The second goes to the 2007 General Election results. I used data from both sources in comment #15. Now will you tell me what you think is wrong with my numbers?

  21. Joe:

    I’m searching for my source regarding the NRG issue. I’ll report back when I have it.

    Regarding the election results, your response to the numbers had so much spin that it took me all this time to finally figure out what you were saying. It is totally illogical to say that every vote that went for Hertrich will go to Cooper in the general election. It would be more logical to say that votes for Hertrich were votes against the incumbent, but it would also be totally illogical to say that 100% of those votes will go to Earling.
    All that we can be certain of at this time is that Earling beat Cooper 52.8% to 39.2%.

    I’m finished with this topic.

  22. Ron, thanks in advance for researching the NRG issue. I’d like to have a better understanding of independent expenditures.

    My view of the primary results is that it doesn’t tell us very much. I think you’re reading into them what you want to hear.

    But our main disagreement is that you think mailers (and the money that pays for them) have little or no effect on an election. Mailers are generally the largest expenditure for those candidates who use them, so you must think they’re all foolish for doing so. That just doesn’t make sense.

  23. Joe:

    I do not think that candidates are foolish for doing mailers. I think that they can be the difference in a tight election, and candidates needs to do them to counter their opponents. I simply am saying that any number of mailers by Cooper will not make up for other factors. Let’s agree to disagree,

  24. There is a long list of points to be made for and against both candidates. I’m almost always set in my mind at this point but still find myself wondering which mayoral candidate to vote for.

    A point for Joe is the fact that Earling, while losing badly to Reardon, either won or lost in Edmonds by 50.1, I’ve forgotten which: not too impressive either way.So Earling with his mediocre record against strong opponents is certainly not invinceable unless he simply buys (and sells himself in the process) the election.

    And a point for Ron, Earling, after a huge struggle to first get elected, clearly showed he could control 3 votes on the council for several years, which cost the voters millions.

    I’m not too sure either one will do particulary well as mayor.. Instead I would welcome a ballot on Council/Manager to replace the continual wasteful turf battle between our executive and legislative branches. The voters would still control the elected council who in turn would be saddled with the responsibilty of a competent, non competing management. Balance of power is not a valid counter arguement when you think about it a bit.

    So now we will muddle forward awaiting a big push for higher building heights with builders/ real/estate interests trying to trump the will of the people. Either way, I’m uncomfortable. The voters stand to be the losers in my opinion.

  25. In the last week my household has received 4 mailers from the Earling camp; I received one from Cooper’s camp. This is definitely a get to the uneducated masses with propaganda type of campaign from the Earling camp.

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