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'Goliath' Spending Blamed For Failure Of Spokane Coal, Oil Measure


File photo. Spokane voters rejected an initiative that would regulate coal and oil shipments through the heart of the city.

File photo. Spokane voters rejected an initiative that would regulate coal and oil shipments through the heart of the city.

SounderBruce, Flickr - tinyurl.com/y9kzhlph

An initiative that would have fined rail cars carrying uncovered coal and certain kinds of oil through the heart of Spokane failed last Tuesday. Opponents of the measure say voters were concerned about the local economy, while supporters say they were simply outspent.

Proponents of Proposition 2 call theirs a “David and Goliath struggle.” According to Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission, the group in favor of Prop 2, Safer Spokane, raised just over $7,000.

But the Committee to Protect Spokane’s Economy, which opposed the measure, raised more than $250,000, with the largest contribution — $75,000 — coming from railway company Burlington Northern-Santa Fe. Lighthouse Resources, a Utah-based coal company, gave nearly $65,000.

All but about $800 of contributions made to the Safer Spokane campaign was spent on social media advertising, website design and printing costs for yard signs and fliers. The largest contribution, $2,350, came from the group’s own treasurer.

At least one complaint was filed against Safer Spokane citing multiple failures to publicly disclose contributions and expenditures. The group said they simply lacked experience when it comes to Washington’s public disclosure requirements.

Most of the opposition’s expenditures included social media and television advertising, direct mailing costs and legal expenses.

Supporters of the measure say they are considering moving forward with a statewide initiative or raising the issue with the Washington Legislature.

A spokesman for the opposition said railway shipments should only be regulated at the federal level, in order to avoid a “hodgepodge” of local laws “that impede interstate commerce.”

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