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October 19, 2011 at 12:06 PM

Big money flows into Bellevue council race

Posted by Keith Ervin

Big money has begun to flow into the Bellevue City Council election, with $69,000 in contributions from Kemper Freeman and two other developers to a new political action committee.

Freeman's company, Kemper Holdings, contributed $25,000 to the PAC, the Eastside Leadership Council, according to reports to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Downtown Bellevue property owner Bob Wallace and Issaquah developer Skip Rowley have contributed $22,000 each.

The Eastside Leadership Council, organized by Republican-leaning political consultant Brett Bader, has in turn given $63,400 to Friends of Bellevue Families, which is not registered with the PDC.

Wallace and Rowley said they don't know how the money will be spent and don't have control over it. But Rowley said he made a contribution because he was told it would be used in part to support City Council candidate Aaron Laing, who is running against John Stokes for the seat being vacated by Councilmember Grant Degginger.

Rowley said he's never met Laing, but prefers him over Stokes, a "milquetoast" who will "do what the city tells him to do."

Wallace, father of City Councilmember Kevin Wallace, said he doesn't want to know how the money is being spent, because of his son's council position.

But he said he wants to replace two council members he once supported, Claudia Balducci and John Chelminiak, because they supported the city "spending money like a drunken sailor" and were "really mean-spirited" after Kevin Wallace was elected to the council in 2009.

Political action committees of Washington Conservation Voters and Fuse, a self-described "progressive" group, this week reported combined contributions of $14,500 to Eastside Progress for an independent campaign in support of Balducci and Stokes.

Move Bellevue Forward, a group that supports Sound Transit's light-rail plan, raised eyebrows this week with a mailing that supports Balducci, Chelminiak and Stokes, and opposes Tim Eyman's tolling-related Initiative 1125.

Move Bellevue Forward President Sue Baugh said she has been advised the mailing doesn't have to be reported to the PDC, but said she is prepared to submit forms if they are required.

As to the independent campaign funded by Freeman, Wallace and Rowley, Baugh said, "They're buying the City Council, that's what they're doing."

Independent expenditures in support of candidates are not subject to contribution limits in Washington.

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