Over the years, Bill Doddridge has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to GOP candidates and causes, mostly in California but also recently to Donald Trump. Now he hopes to help Republican Bill Bryant beat Gov. Jay Inslee in Washington state.
OLYMPIA — Over the years, Bill Doddridge has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican political campaigns and organizations.
Many of those contributions have gone to Republican presidential hopefuls, or to candidates in California, where Doddridge, CEO of the Jewelry Exchange, a nationwide chain of factory-direct retail stores, built his business.
Now, Doddridge — who this year co-founded a super PAC supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — is migrating north.
In July, after meeting with Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant, Doddridge donated $25,000 to the Washington State Republican Party. The party has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bryant’s campaign in the quest to unseat Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.
While he can’t control what happens to his contribution, Doddridge said in an interview he hoped it was used for TV ads to boost Bryant.
“He’s really a competent guy. I think he’s good for Washington state,” he said.
In an effort to exploit the tension within the Republican Party over Trump’s controversial campaign, Democrats have seized on Doddridge’s contribution, arguing that it ties a prominent Trump backer to Bryant.
Some Republicans in Washington state have denounced Trump, and Bryant has sought this year to avoid discussing the Republican nominee.
Doddridge’s business is based in Tustin, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles. His past political contributions have listed addresses in Tustin and adjacent Santa Ana.
But in 2012, Doddridge bought a home in Anacortes. He said he came to like Washington state after getting pilot lessons from a Washington instructor, and later decided to buy a house up here.
He now spends more than half his time in Washington and recently changed his residency so he could vote here, Doddridge said.
As CEO of the Jewelry Exchange, with retail stores in 15 markets across the nation, including Renton, he describes his political philosophy as one that promotes free markets and doesn’t “kill the private economy.”
Before donating to Bryant, Doddridge met with the gubernatorial hopeful but said they never discussed Trump or other federal races.
Yvette Ollada, communications director for Bryant’s campaign, described the meeting between Bryant and Doddridge as a discussion on “how important it is to make sure a business-friendly candidate is elected to the highest position in Washington state, because they both care a lot about ensuring there are enough family-supporting jobs here.”
Stretching back to at least 2000, Doddridge has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns, political-action committees and party organizations, according to federal campaign records.
Many of his donations focused on California candidates for U.S. House and Senate. But Doddridge has also contributed to campaigns around the country, including the successful 2014 re-election bid of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the election that year of Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
Doddridge has also contributed to past GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush.
Washington state campaign-disclosure records show that Doddridge’s July contribution was his first in this state.
That donation to the state Republican Party is the seventh-largest single contribution by an individual in 2016, according to campaign-disclosure records.
Doddridge said he’s open to donating more if the cause to elect Bryant needs it.
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Before supporting Trump, Doddridge backed the presidential bid of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. In January, as Paul’s campaign faded, Doddridge founded Great America PAC — to which he contributed $25,000 — to support Trump’s campaign.
“I think his policies would be better than Hillary’s policies,” he said, referring to Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
The political-action committee said July 1 it had raised $5 million and had commitments for $3 million more.
In its effort to re-elect Inslee, the state Democratic Party seized on that contribution to tie Bryant to Trump.
The state Republican Party, “backed by Trump money, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV ads for Bill Bryant,” said Marc Siegel, spokesman for state Democrats.
A news release by the state Democratic Party points out that Doddridge’s contribution was made the same day the state Republican Party donated $75,000 to Bryant’s campaign.
A day later, the party released a campaign ad attacking Inslee over the troubles at Western State Hospital, the state’s largest psychiatric facility.
In an email, state Republican Party spokesman Steve Beren wrote that his party is always glad when people decide to donate to it. But Beren disputed Democrats’ argument that Doddridge’s contribution links Trump and Bryant.
“If he gives to Trump, those are federal contributions governed by the FEC [Federal Election Commission],” wrote Beren. “When we put donations into the State Candidate Fund, those are governed by the PDC [Public Disclosure Commission]. Doddridge did not earmark his donation for Bill Bryant; we decide how we want to allocate all funding given to us.”