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Political Action Committees Pop Up In Election Years

Political Action Committees in Washington have spent more than $14 million so far this year. The top spenders are teachers, trial lawyers, SEIU and a business PAC called Enterprise Washington. But there are also dozens of smaller PACs — PACs in a box — that have been set up for just this election year.

You’ve heard of a jack in the box. Single-year political action committees are sort of like that. They just pop up. And then when the election is over, they disappear again.

This year, Democratic interests are funding several of these pop-up PACs in key legislative districts. The mailing address is always a UPS store in the district. But all these PACs share the same Seattle treasurer.

All PACs in Washington must open their books for review beginning eight days before the election. But there’s no rule the books have to be kept at the treasurer’s office. So, you might end up reviewing them at a mobile home on Puget Sound or at a lobbyist’s mansion near the state Capitol known as “The Castle.” Those are the addresses given for where the campaign books will be available for inspection for two Republican PACs.

Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission says all of this is allowed.

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.