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Wash. Election Regulators Brace For Onslaught Of Third-Party Spending

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Independent Super PACS are playing a big role in the presidential election. At the state level, Washington campaign regulators also predict a deluge of spending by third-party interest groups.

The tsunami of spending hasn’t hit Washington yet. But it’s coming.

Lori Anderson works as a campaign finance regulator by day. But at night — when she just wants to watch a TV show at home — she’d prefer not get inundated by political ads.

“I think I am the average resident and, yes, I have a dread of what’s coming down the pike.”

Anderson works for Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission. Four years ago, so-called independent expenditure groups spent nearly $25 million in Washington for and against candidates and ballot measures. The money paid for ads like this one from the Republican Governor’s Association targeting Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire.

TV Ad: “It sounds like the plot of a late night scary movie. The addresses of 1300 convicted sex offenders are never verified.”

In recent weeks, Anderson says out-of-state lawyers have been calling her agency with questions about campaign finance rules.

“The attorneys are doing some early defense, if you will, trying to figure out what types of disclosure might be contained in ads that are being contemplated.”

Judging by the calls she’s getting, Anderson predicts Referendum 74 to uphold same-sex marriage could attract as much third-party spending as Washington’s open governor’s race. That’s on top of direct spending by candidates and the official initiative campaigns.

Already, the Republican Governors Association and a union-backed political Action Committee have reserved millions of dollars in TV ad time for this fall.

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