Isn't it Weird That ... Just a month before hosting last week's Obama DNC fundraiser at his Hunts Point home, Costco board member and former CEO James Sinegal contributed $5,000 to the Leadership Council, the state Republican senate caucus PAC that's locked down in a war with the Democrats over control of the state senate?
Sinegal is a longtime Obama funder (he also hosted an Obama Presidential race fundraiser at his home in 2012). And Costco itself is rightly perceived as a Democratic Party company—96 percent of its $2.2 million in national political contributions between 1990 and 2012 have gone to help Democrats.
However, like Sinegal, Costco co-founder and exec Jeffery Brotman and Costco Senior VP John McKay are also $5,000 contributors to the state senate GOP's Leadership Council. (They have not contributed to the Democratic counterpart, the Kennedy Fund.)
As the PI.com reported this week, the GOP Leadership Council is behind the hardball, and misleading, mailers against Democratic state senate candidates this season.
In fact, Sinegal, Brotman, and McKay have all contributed to the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate in key state senate races this year.
Sinegal, for example, has given $1,900 to state Sen. Andy Hill (R-45, Kirkland), $1,900 to state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (D-6, Spokane), $1,800 to state Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale); and $950 to state Sen. Steve O'Ban (R-28, Tacoma)—all seats being targeted by the Democrats, who need to win two races.
(With state Sen. Rodney Tom—a Democrat who caucuses as a Republican—retiring, the Democrats are looking at a likely 25-24 disadvantage right away, slightly better than last session's 26-23 disadvantage. Picking up two more seats would give them them the 26-23 advantage; they need the buffer because state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-36, Potlatch, also caucuses with the Republicans.)
Liquor dollars appear to be the deciding factor in the traditionally Democratic company's choice to help secure a GOP senate this year.
Brotman and McKay have gone all in for the Republican candidates in the key races as well. (Interesting footnote: Brotman also gave $500 this summer to Forward Seattle, the group that was trying to undo Seattle $15 minimum wage law.)
Why has Costco gone red when it comes to the Washington state senate?
One bill that Costco has been pushing at the state level—with strong support from the GOP-controlled senate, where it passed last year before losing in the Democratic house—is a major change to their own liquor privatization measure, which voters passed in 2011.The change would do away with the 17 percent fee on Costco sales to bars and restaurants, which would allow a retailer like Costco to effectively double as a distributor while neither paying the 17 percent sales fee nor the official 5 percent distributor fee. This would give Costco a competitive advantage.
The bill narrowly passed the senate last session 26-23, with only a few Democrats crossing over, including state Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens). Hobbs is also one of the few senate Democrats to get money from Costco's Sinegal and Brotman.
Hobbs, it turns out, is actually central in this year's election brawl over the state senate. While the Democrats need to pick up two seats—going after Sens. Hill, Erickson, O'Ban, and Baumgartner, for example—they also need to hold serve in Hobbs' seat, where he's facing a tough challenge.
The fact that Costco execs are writing checks to the Republican senate caucus' Leadership Council and to key GOP senators, but also maxing out to Hobbs, points to liquor privatization dollars as the common denominator. It also points to liquor dollars as the deciding factor in the traditionally Democratic company's choice to help secure a GOP senate this year.
Costco tells PubliCola they do not comment on political contributions.
In a sign that the Costco execs are still Democrats ideologically, Sinegal has given $25,000 to this year's gun control ballot measure, I-594. Brotman has given $5,000. (Ironically, the coslty measure is on the ballot in part because it died in the state legislature where it did not have Republican support.)