Port of Vancouver commission District 1 candidate Kris Greene told The Columbian’s Editorial Board Friday that a recent $75,000 contribution from Vancouver Energy was “problematic” for his campaign.
But later that day, the company gave Greene’s campaign $150,000, according to documents filed to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission on Monday.
“I don’t know that it is a problem,” Greene said Monday of the company’s contributions. “I’ve had a couple people ask me, ‘What do you think people are going to think of that much money coming in?,’ I tell people this is local money from a local company that’s been spending tens of million over the last 30 plus years in our community.”
Vancouver Energy wants build the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver. One half of Vancouver Energy is Tesoro Corp., which is now called Andeavor Corp., has been a port tenant since the 1980s.
So far, Vancouver Energy has given Greene $225,000. Tesoro gave him $5,000 in late July. All told, the two companies’ $230,000 in contributions make up just under 84 percent of Greene’s $279,000 campaign fund.
Green is running against Don Orange for the Position 1 seat, which is being vacated by current commissioner Brian Wolfe.
The two men have diametrically opposing opinions about the oil terminal.
Orange is running his campaign on ending the port’s lease with Vancouver Energy.
Orange maintains that he won’t take any oil money, despite currently having a third of the campaign budget of his opponent.
So far he’s raised about $81,000.
“I think it’s corrupt for one industry that is absolutely going to be affected by this election to finance it,” Orange said. “They’re buying the election. … One company has donated about three times as much as my five hundred donors.”
In June, Orange publicly committed to not accepting any money from oil companies and he asked Greene to do the same. Greene did not respond.
Though Greene’s campaign has sought to create distance between it and the terminal, the contentious race is seen by many as a referendum over the lease of the proposed $210 million Vancouver Energy oil terminal.
The terminal is currently being reviewed by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which will make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who will make the final decision. But, Vancouver Energy and the port are in a lease that automatically renews every three months, unless either party decides to back out.
For his part, Greene has refused to take a public stance on the terminal. He said he’s in favor of allowing the state process to finish, arguing that canceling the lease before the state process is finished would send a bad message to other potential port tenants.
But before running for office, Greene authored a post on Vancouver Energy’s website that highly praised the company.
In March, when the current commission was weighing whether to continue the lease with Vancouver Energy, Greene wrote them an email with the subject line, “I Support the Oil Terminal at the Port Of Vancouver.” A line near the end that finished the email said that the port commission should “bring the oil terminal home.”
Greene also served on the company’s Community Fund Advisory Board, which helps the company’s charitable arm identify community grant recipients, although he stepped down prior to starting his campaign.
There are no campaign contribution limits for the Port of Vancouver. State law does limit contributions districts ports with more than 200,000 residents, but that only includes Seattle and Tacoma.
By money raised, Greene now has the sixth largest war chest of any local-level election in Washington State. And he’s not saying how he plans to spend it.
“My campaign plans are huge. That’s all I can tell you,” he said.
The other five ahead of Greene are Seattle mayoral or city council candidates and candidates for King County executive. Notably, one of those is Ed Murray, the embattled former mayor of Seattle who recently resigned as mayor and previously announced he wouldn’t run again.