A statewide environmental group plans to bolster the campaign of Port of Vancouver commissioner candidate Don Orange with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of staff time, campaign materials and other assistance.
Filings made available Wednesday by the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission show that the political action committee of the Washington Conservation Voters intends to contribute $290,000 in in-kind donations to Orange’s campaign. Unlike cash contributions, in-kind donations are gifts of goods or services.
WCV President Shannon Murphy said that her group has been working in Clark County for about the last five years against a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.
“Our work in Clark County, and support for Don Orange, is a continuation of what we’ve been doing for years with community members,” she said.
Orange has centered his campaign on opposing the $210 million oil terminal that would handle an average of 360,000 barrels of oil per day.
“I did not want to go and ask for outside help,” said Orange.
But he said that he reached out to the political group for help after his opponents attempted over the summer to have him removed from the ballot on grounds that he didn’t reside at the apartment where he’s registered to vote. Orange said it’s not clear who paid for the lawyer who mounted efforts to challenge his candidacy.
“We don’t know what we’re up against to this day,” said Orange, whose voter registration was later ruled valid by Republican Auditor Greg Kimsey.
The race for the Port of Vancouver Commission District 1 position has focused on the proposed oil terminal. Orange’s opponent, Kris Greene, has previously expressed support for the project and as a candidate has stated he wants to see the state’s process to evaluate the process seen through.
In an emailed statement, Greene wrote that national organizations, working through local chapters, have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars. These groups oppose “local control of the Port of Vancouver,” as well as what he characterized the “exhaustive” Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council application process. He wrote that these donations have gone to Orange “who promises to unilaterally hijack the local approval process.”
PDC filings released Tuesday show that Greene received another $140,000 donation from a company run jointly by Tesoro Refining & Marketing Company and Savage Cos., the two companies pursuing the terminal at the port.
Greene has accepted a total of $370,000 from companies with a direct interest in the project. Filings further show that last week he received an in-kind media buy from Enterprise WA Jobs PAC worth $122,314. The PAC also spent $40,000 earlier this month on a television commercial production for Greene. PDC records show that Tesoro, the BNSF Railway (which would likely transport oil to the terminal) and “Cheveron (sic) Policy Government & Public Affairs” each gave $100,000 to the PAC since July.
As of yesterday, Orange’s campaign had raised $100,112. The most recent filings, which account for WCV’s in-kind contribution, now put Orange’s campaign at $395,486.
When asked if the large contribution to his campaign from WCV would affect his independence or at least create a negative appearance, Orange said he wasn’t worried because his values and goals are aligned with the group.
“These folks are really concerned about the possibility of having this enormous oil terminal here. Their aim is to have a clean river and clean air in Vancouver,” he said. He also added, “Quite honestly they are a separate organization from me, so I’m not looking at their books.”
Murphy said that WCV will support Orange’s campaign with direct voter contact, such as coordinating volunteers knocking on doors and contacting their neighbors about the race. She said WCV has also paid for mail pieces in support of Orange’s campaign. She said that WCV has a full-time organizer working on the campaign along with four paid fellows.
PDC spokeswoman Kim Bradford said that Tuesday began a 21-day period where individuals and PACs are now barred from contributing more than $5,000 to races. She said that on Tuesday the PDC had problems with its computer system, which caused some contributions to not be disclosed until Wednesday.
Murphy said because of this reporting requirement the $290,000 in-kind donation from WCV to Orange is an estimate of the contributions it will make to his campaign during this 21-day period. In a follow-up email, Murphy wrote that the WCV has reported $155,260 in detailed expenditures so far.
In his statement, Greene wrote that similar to the port race in 2015, “Don Orange reported these massive contributions at the last possible moment, and even past the reporting deadline to hide where his contributions were coming from.”
In 2015, WCV spent $103,000 in helping to elect Eric LaBrant to the port commission, according to Murphy. She added that her group’s support for Orange is “just an ongoing campaign.”