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The political money trail

By Ruth Longoria

What's touted as a non-partisan, small town City Council race is generating a chunk of partisan change from pockets on and off the Island. In addition to local politicians contributing their financial support to candidates, some national political organizations have added their contributions to push forward candidates who share their ideological bent.

The council race also gives some insight into the financial handling of the candidates as they spend large and small amounts of donated cash on hand, as well as borrowed or ``on paper only.''

Throughout the past several months of campaigning, voters have had many opportunities to hear from the candidates they will elect Nov. 8; but, for those interested in learning more about where the money is coming from, here's some facts and figures, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Each candidate is required to file information with the PDC about the funds they receive and spend during the campaign.

Candidate Mike Grady, who is running for position No. 6, the seat being vacated by Mayor Alan Merkle, has generated just under $4,000 in campaign contributions; he has spent just over that amount. According to filings, Grady's campaign has run with a deficit of up to $268.98, but as of Friday, showed a deficit of $13.91. He received contributions from the National Progressive Majority. The Progressive Majority primarily backs state and national candidates, and although Grady has said the group is not affiliated with a particular party, the organization's Washington branch Internet web site encourages site visitors to join its effort to ``take back the State Senate for the Democrats.'' Grady has also received contributions from the Washington branch of the League of Conservation Voters, which calls itself the ``political voice of the environmental movement.''

Grady and position No. 4 incumbent Jim Pearman also have received campaign contributions from Seattle's Cascade Bicycle Club.

Pearman's opponent in the race, Bob Baker, has received financial loans from his wife, Robin Baker, who (according to the PDC filings) loaned $2,000 to his campaign. The Baker campaign's cash on hand Friday was just over $560. He has spent about $2,500 to date and received $3,075 in donations, primarily from Islanders and out-of-state family and friends.

Grady's opponent, Brenda Finkenbinder, has raised the most money this season. Finkenbinder's friends and family from across the country, as well as a host of private Island supporters, have donated nearly $11,500 to her campaign. Finkenbinder's campaign has reported almost $9,700 in expenditures.

Incumbent position No. 2 councilman Dan Grausz comes in a close second to Finkenbinder's contributions, with $10, 276. The Grausz campaign has outspent all the other candidates. His campaign lists expenditures that amount to $10,053.09.

Despite coming from what many consider to be opposite political camps, Grausz and Finkenbinder have something else in common. They are both recipients of contributions from Island developers, including The Mercer owner/developer James Cassan and his company, Dollar Development.

Though most of the candidates hired outside agencies to handle their financial holdings, Lisa Belden O'Meara's husband Matt O'Meara has served as treasurer for her campaign. Belden O'Meara received donations of almost $8,200, spent about $7,670, and, as of Friday, had cash on hand totaling about $525. Many of Belden O'Meara's contributors are retired Islanders, former local Republican leaders and out-of-area friends and family members.

Pearman's campaign comes in with the lowest numbers for donations and one of the lowest for expenditures. He received just over $3,400 in contributions and spent about $2,500. Pearman said he's proud of his campaign and the way he went about raising money. ``I'm very proud of my record and I basically did not try to buy an election,'' Pearman said. ``This community is about relationships and meeting people, I'm not interested in spending or raising the most money.''

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