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Bill And Melinda Gates Contribute to Wash. Gun Control Measure

Mary Altaffer
Associated Press
FILE - Bill and Melinda Gates attend the Millennium Development Goals event, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 at U.N. headquarters.

Bill and Melinda Gates have each contributed $25,000 to the campaign to require background checks for most gun sales in Washington. The couple’s personal contributions late last month helped push the Yes on Initiative 594 campaign over the $1 million mark.

The big money donors to the Yes on 594 campaign reads like a who’s who list, and includes venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, and Connie Ballmer, wife of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.  

These prominent backers are among more than 2,000 donors to the campaign to require criminal background checks for person-to-person gun sales in Washington. A similar effort failed in the Legislature earlier this year.

Todd Donovan, a political science professor at Western Washington University and an expert on the initiative process, noted Bill Gates also helped bankroll last year’s charter school ballot measure in Washington.

“It’s almost becoming the norm that you can’t get on the ballot without a wealthy patron, so reform groups try to make contact with some of these billionaires who’ve taken a liking to some of the issues that get on the ballot through the initiative process,” Donovan said.

I-594 backers are still in the signature-gathering phase, as are sponsors of a counter measure funded by gun rights groups.

So far, backers of I-591 have raised nearly $700,000 from groups including the Citizens Committee for the Right To Keep and Bear Arms, the Gun Owners Action League, and Washington Arms Collectors.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.