After operating for five months without disclosing who was bankrolling it, a super PAC supporting Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s presidential bid revealed its donors in a just-before-midnight filing Wednesday.
Nearly half of the money came from a single person: Rose Letwin, an environmental philanthropist who donated $1 million on March 4, three days after Inslee’s announcement that he was running for president on a platform of defeating climate change.
Letwin is the president and founder of the Wilburforce Foundation, a nonprofit supporting wilderness conservation projects across Western North America. Her ex-husband, Gordon Letwin, was one of the first 11 Microsoft employees and helped finance the foundation, which reported $118 million in assets as of 2017, according to its most recently available tax filing.
Rose Letwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment via the Wilburforce Foundation, whose executive director, Paul Beaudet, stressed was not involved in the political contribution.
With the exception of a Portland, Oregon, man who donated $250, all the donors were Washington state residents, including some longtime Inslee backers and wealthy environmentalists. They include:
- Seattle attorney Matthew P. Bergman, known for asbestos litigation, who gave $250,000.
- Thomas Campion, co-founder of the Zumiez clothing store chain and a longtime patron of Democratic and environmental causes, who donated $250,000.
- David and Linda Cornfield, Microsoft retirees turned philanthropists, who donated $150,000 each.
- Cynthia Sears, a Bainbridge Island arts patron, who donated $250,000.
- Blaine Tamaki, a Yakima attorney, who gave $100,000. He is a longtime major Inslee political contributor who was appointed by the governor to the University of Washington Board of Regents last year.
Inslee has been the only Democratic presidential candidate to embrace the help of a super PAC, a type of political committee that can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions, but must disclose those donors. This year, the pro-Inslee super PAC was required to disclose by a July 31 deadline.
A Super PAC also was started in support of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, even though he said he didn’t want its help.
By law, the super PACs operate independently of candidates, but they often are run by close allies of politicians they support. Act Now is headed by Corey Platt, who was political director for the Democratic Governors Association, which Inslee chaired last year.
Inslee’s refusal to disavow super PAC support been criticized by End Citizens United, an activist group pushing for campaign-finance reform.
“Governor Jay Inslee is the only candidate in the race who has welcomed the support of a single candidate super PAC and now he is the only candidate using big money to do his dirty work and attack fellow Democrats,” said Tiffany Muller, the organization’s president, in a statement. “The Democratic nominee should be chosen by voters, not a handful of special interests and wealthy donors contributing massive sums to super PACs and dark money groups.”
Act Now on Climate’s FEC filing shows the group has spent most of its cash — more than $1.8 million on TV and digital ads supporting Inslee — leaving just $320,000 in the bank as of June 30.
And that money may be gone by now. This week, Act Now announced it was launching a “six-figure” ad buy, to air TV spots in Iowa criticizing Inslee’s Democratic rivals for failing to make climate change their top priority.
So far, the spending seems to have had little impact. Inslee’s poll numbers have remained near the bottom of the Democratic pack and, barring a breakthrough in the coming weeks, he seems unlikely to qualify for the third Democratic debate in September.