The company proposing to build the nation’s largest oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver has donated $75,000 in cash to port commissioner candidate Kris Greene.
The contribution by Vancouver Energy more than doubles Greene’s campaign fund.
Greene, who is running for the Position 1 seat being vacated by Brian Wolfe, announced the donation on his Facebook page earlier this week.
Greene did not respond to The Columbian’s request for comment, but in the Facebook post he said, “As a 20-year Vancouver District 1 resident, husband and father of (three), business owner, voter and taxpayer, I can enthusiastically defend an economic engine at the port that protects the environment, provides good quality jobs, and helps our country become even more energy independent.”
The contentious port commission race is seen by many as a referendum over the proposed $210 million Vancouver Energy oil terminal. The terminal is currently under review by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.
Greene and his opponent Don Orange have diametrically opposing opinions about the project. Orange is running his campaign on ending the port’s lease with Vancouver Energy.
The state Public Disclosure Commission reports Orange has received almost $63,700 in cash and in-kind contributions.
Vancouver Energy’s contribution puts Greene’s fundraising total at a little less than $122,000, according to his most recent filings with the PDC.
“Our contribution is consistent with major contributions in recent past port elections,” said Jeff Hymas, spokesman for Vancouver Energy, which is a partnership between Savage Cos. and Tesoro Corp.
“We appreciate that Kris has taken a well-reasoned position in support of following the established processes in the regulatory reviews of the Vancouver Energy terminal,” he wrote in an email message to The Columbian.
“We also agree with many others that Kris is the right candidate to help lead the port with a focus on integrity, safety, sustainability, competitiveness, job training, and job-creating economic development for all,” he wrote.
Greene’s campaign hasn’t focused much on the terminal relative to his other visions and goals for the port, but the Facebook statement might be his strongest show of support yet.
“The Columbia is not only our river, it’s America’s river and by controlling an energy terminal at the port instead of it being downriver or upriver from Vancouver, we not only can protect our piece of the Columbia — we can do our part protecting the entire Columbia for future generations,” he wrote. “Plus, we can play an important part in making America energy independent and receive a significant and needed economic boost in Vancouver at the same time.”
Before running for office, Greene authored a post on Vancouver Energy’s website that highly praised the company. He 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.
In June, Orange publicly committed to not accepting any money from oil companies and he asked Greene to do the same. About a month later Tesoro (which has operated a smaller facility at the port for several decades) donated $5,000 to Greene and BNSF Railway, which would haul crude oil from North Dakota to the proposed ocean terminal, donated $500.
Orange said Vancouver Energy’s large donation has a “corrosive effect on Clark County politics.” He plans to canvass the city seeking donations.
“There’s no way in the world we can go out and match this,” he said. “We’re going to go out and meet the voters. I believe if we tell our story we’ll win, but it’ll be hard.”
In 2006, the Washington Legislature put campaign contribution limits on commissioner races in port districts with more than 200,000 registered voters. There are no contribution limits in smaller port districts. The port of Vancouver has about 178,000 registered voters.
“There were concerns about special interest groups getting involved in the races,” said Kim Bradford, spokeswoman for the PDC.
The 2015 Vancouver port race between Eric LaBrant and Lisa Ross also saw substantial spending from outside groups.
Ross, who was a supporter of the oil terminal, received at least $8,500 from Tesoro and $2,500 from Savage.
LaBrant, who won the election by almost 6,000 votes, received $100,000 in the form of in-kind donations from the Washington Conservation Voters.
Shannon Murphy, president of the Conservation Voters, said it has just recently started working with the Orange campaign and has not yet filed anything with the PDC.
At this point, Vancouver Energy’s contribution to Greene is the second-largest made to a candidate in the state for the upcoming November election, according to data from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.
The most money, so far, has gone to Washington’s 45th Legislative District Senate Republican candidate Jinyoung Lee Englund. She received $80,000 from the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.
A Seattle City Council candidate is also listed to have $85,000, but Bradford of the PDC, said the candidate incorrectly reported how he’s received funding from the city’s taxpayer-funded democracy voucher program.
Dameon Pesanti: 360-735-4541; firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/dameonoemad