Guest Commentaries

Dark money doesn't want you to vote this year

NW Washington not immune to PAC attacks
July 6, 2022 at 4:45 a.m.

By State Rep. Alex Ramel

Over the last decade, hundreds of thousands of dollars in dark money has found its way to campaigns in Northwest Washington, attacking local leaders, often with bald-faced lies. The cynical purpose is to scare you into maintaining the status quo that is poisoning the air and water we breathe and threatening the planet, but makes a lot of money for the fossil fuel companies that fund these attacks. 

We can expect the same thing this year. Last week, the Washington Observer reported that my campaign for reelection is a priority target for these tactics and dark money. They’re attacking me because I’ve spent much of my career working to turn the tide on climate change. Fossil fuel companies see any change in how we power our buildings and transportation as a threat. But I’m not backing down because I know this community has stood up to fossil fuel corporations before, and will again.

In an article titled “Money pours into Democrat-on-Democrat fight over natural gas,” the Washington Observer wrote “The Jackson Legacy Fund, a political action committee that backs moderate Democrats, just dropped $150,000 into another PAC called Citizens for Legislative Accountability. The money, we’re told, will be spent on an independent primary campaign in support of union operative Trevor Smith in his bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Alex Ramel in the 40th District.”

This year’s political action committee (PAC) has a new name, but the folks running it are familiar. “Citizens for Legislative Accountability is part of Enterprise Washington, a sprawling network of pro-business PACs that mostly supports Republicans.”

I’m sure “Citizens for Legislative Accountability” will use the same playbook as past dirty energy PACs. Expect an independent expenditure campaign funded with money from outside interests and checks cashed at the last minute to avoid accountability. Independent expenditure campaigns are a common trick so that the candidate who benefits can claim that they had no control over the smear tactics. 

The special interests behind these PACs know that negative campaigning can depress the vote, and that when voters get disgusted they often just stay home. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. They would rather you throw up your hands and don’t vote.

These campaigns in our community have almost always failed. They fail because they rely on a cynical view of politics, depend on deception, and are disconnected from the community they’re trying to fool. They fail because fossil fuel companies don’t run our community and can’t buy your vote. 

The response has already started. In the three days after the news broke, my campaign has received more than 60 individual donations. The smallest was for $7. None of us alone can match the fossil fuel companies dollar for dollar, but we also know that when we work together, corporate interests can’t win.  

The target is on my back because I’ve pushed hard for both labor standards and environmental standards, which these special interests oppose. I’ve insisted that the gas industry must have a plan to steadily reduce the pollution that they’re causing, and that may cut into their profits. Regrettably, there are also some construction unions working for oil and gas companies that have taken the side of their employers, and who may allow themselves to be used as the face of the attacks. 

I’m proudly running on a record of standing up for this community, standing up to big fossil fuel corporations and standing up to bullies. When the scary mailers start arriving in your mailbox, I know our community will question the source and make up our own minds.

We can and must move away from using fossil fuels. This transition needs to be planned and orderly so workers and businesses know what to expect. If we plan ahead and put people over short-term gas company profits, our transition will allow skilled workers to use their abilities in clean energy industries like green hydrogen, district heating and construction, and retrofits of efficient, electric buildings. 

Businesses and homeowners will have incentives to invest in cleaner technology, not yesterday’s systems that will soon be stranded assets. This climate leadership will come with good jobs, a vibrant economy, and a steady improvement in public health and safety. That vision is why you sent me to the Legislature in the first place. I’m not backing down and I know the voters won’t either. 


Alex Ramel has been Washington State Representative for the 40th District since 2020. The primary election is on Tuesday, Aug. 2.  

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