Right after an election campaign, when winning candidates often find themselves overwhelmed by unpaid campaign debt, comes a period that political writers in Texas call the "late train"—the time, as my alma mater The Texas Observer so eloquently described it, "when winning candidates allow lobbyists and special interests who made the mistake of backing the wrong horse to make a conciliatory donation to the right one."
Judging from the list of sponsors at an upcoming fundraiser for Mayor-Elect Mike McGinn ($26,000 in debt as of his most recent contribution and expenditure report), Nickels, Mallahan, and Drago supporters are jumping aboard McGinn's late train.
Of 56 co-sponsors for the December 14 event, to be held at Vulcan's South Lake Union Discovery Center, just seven gave any money or in-kind contributions to McGinn prior to the election.
Of the rest, 12 (including Strategies 360 consultant John Engber, Forward Seattle founder Joe Quintana—whose organization spent tens of thousands to fight McGinn's counterpart at the council level, City Council member-elect Mike O'Brien—and public-affairs consultant Rollin Fatland) were contributors to Greg Nickels; eight (including Seattle Chamber VP George Allen, ) were contributors to Joe Mallahan; six were contributors to Jan Drago (including Uwajimaya owner Tomio Moriguchi, who also gave to Mallahan and Nickels), and one (Quintana again) was a contributor to James Donaldson.
Two sponsors—Dan Kully and Christian Sinderman—did not contribute to anyone in the mayor's race but supported Nickels—Sinderman behind the scenes, and Kully as a media consultant.
Of course, there's no direct correlation between influence with the mayor-elect and late-train contributions. However, the presence of some fairly anti-McGinn names on his list of newly anointed supporters—notably Quintana, Fatland, and longtime Nickels supporter Don Stark (of Gogerty Stark Marriott—makes it clear that they haven't merely had a sudden change of heart.
"I think it would be naive to say [the late-train effect] doesn't exist," event cosponsor Sinderman says. "There are a lot of people who got on the wrong horse and now they're switching. You make the 'oops' donation." However, he adds, "I don't think it's a wholly cynical act... Personally, I wasn't able to publicly support Mike because of my past affiliation with Nickels, but I'm more than happy to support him now."