It’s easy for people to make lists. And the internet loves lists.
Unfortunately, when journalists do it – and call it analysis – the public is cheated.
Such is the case of extreme laziness and misinformation from the Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ) and reporter Ashley Stewart, who in a piece today claims to have “analyzed” data from the state’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) to determine the top donors to Governor Jay Inslee’s re-election campaign.
A casual reader of the piece – which was also being read on news radio this morning like it was real journalism – would think that Inslee is a business-friendly candidate based on the PSBJ’s faulty “analysis,” and the highlighting of “at least 40 prominent business leaders” who have given Inslee campaign cash. And the reporter couldn’t even get her facts right, suggesting that the business leaders were among the 330 people who “gave the state’s $2,000 maximum individual contribution to Inslee’s campaign.”
But hey, who can blame the reporter, since she put together a nice internet slide show with 43 graphics to show how much “analysis” she did!
In reality, anyone paying attention to state politics would know the maximum individual contribution limit to a statewide candidate is $4,000 – or $2,000 for both the primary and general election. In fact, it says that on the PDC web site. And a quick count (not analysis), shows Inslee has 53 such “maxed-out donors” (at least those who contributed $2,000 each time), and only 37 of them are individuals.
And virtually none of them are on the PSBJ’s slide show, since the vast majority of “business leaders” listed there only gave one maximum donation, not the two allowed under the law. No use throwing good money after bad, evidently.
Of course, one “business leader” who did make the PSBJ slide show was retired California hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer who, along with his wife Katherine Taylor, gave $8,000 total. And, if the reporter had done some actual “analysis”, she would have realized that Steyer has given far more – in the millions of dollars – to Inslee’s favorite cause of electing a Democrat State Senate so he can raise taxes.
And that is indicative of the sad fact that what’s even worse than the reporter’s laziness is her bias. A quick review (using the PDC’s “Search database” function) of Inslee’s campaign finances indicates one donor is far and away his biggest benefactor – the Washington State Democrat Party, which occupies the top 13 positions on Inslee’s cash donor list, giving a total of $1.775 million. Additionally, the Democrat Party occupies the top 15 spots on Inslee’s in-kind donor list, for another $407,000 dollars of support.
But to follow that line of analysis, the reporter would then have had to look at who gave big money to the State Democrat Party so that it could afford to launder over $2 million dollars through to Inslee’s campaign. And a review of that list shows that over $1 million of the Democrat Party’s money comes from 15 individuals contributing between $25,000 and $250,000, including such names as former NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($248k), Tom Steyer (there he is again, at $150k), minimum wage-raiser Nicolas Hanauer ($50k), and noted liberal philanthropist Harriett Bullitt ($50k).
And, if the reporter really wanted to do some analysis on who is betting big on Inslee this campaign season, she would have done what other reporters have, and looked at the SuperPAC that is supporting Inslee’s re-election by spending over $677,000 attacking his Republican opponent Bill Bryant. That SuperPAC, Our Washington, has been featured in Shift (the latest one is here), and it doesn’t take long to determine its top donors, since it only has seven of them – the SEIU State Council and two locals ($459k), WA Federation of State Employees ($250k), WA Conservation Voters ($150k), the state Trial Lawyers Association ($175k), and the Democrat Governors Association ($325k).
But listing a few unions and trial lawyers wouldn’t have looked as good on an internet slide show, so the reporter skipped that “analysis.” Much easier to say that business donors are fueling Inslee’s campaign.
And much more inaccurate.