Jenny Durkan at her campaign kickoff in May.
Jenny Durkan at her campaign kickoff in May. nate gowdy

With three weeks until the primary election, expect to see a lot more ads urging you to elect Jenny Durkan for mayor and Sara Nelson to city council. Two independent expenditure (IE) campaigns funded by business interests plan to spend a combined $200,000 on online advertising in support of Durkan and Nelson, according to public campaign finance records.

IEs are free from the donation caps candidates face when fundraising. They can raise as much money as possible, but are legally prohibited from coordinating with the candidates and their campaigns. (Think: Super PACs.) In recent years, as Seattle has restricted how much money individual donors can give directly to candidates, IEs have exploded. These two groups—"People for Jenny Durkan" and "People for Sara Nelson"—are likely only the beginning of IE spending in this year's competitive mayor and city council races.

The groups are funded by two political action committees: the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) and Seattle Hospitality for Progress, the political arm of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance and the Seattle Hotel Association. (The Seattle Hotel Association recently fought against protections for hotel workers against sexual harassment and assault*.) Both CASE and Seattle Hospitality for Progress have endorsed Durkan, a former U.S. attorney, and Nelson, the owner of Fremont Brewing.

Those groups are, in turn, funded by other PACs, individuals, and corporations. Among the top donors to CASE and Seattle Hospitality for Progress: Amazon (by far the top contributor to CASE at $250,000), landlords (including the Rental Housing Association of Washington, which is currently suing the city over move-in fee legislation), developers, hotels, and restaurants.

People for Jenny Durkan and People for Sara Nelson have reported just $50,000 each in fundraising from CASE and Seattle Hospitality for Progress, but have each reported that they plan to buy tens of thousands of dollars in online ads. According to reports filed with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, the pro-Durkan group plans to spend about $115,600 and the pro-Nelson group plans to spend $82,400. The money will buy online ads on the Seattle Times, Pandora, Facebook, and, GeekWire, some of which have already begun. The Pro-Durkan group also bought ad space on The Stranger's site, which you may have noticed:


(Advertisers have no influence on our coverage or endorsements.)

According to state campaign records, CASE has raised a total of $474,046 and Seattle Hospitality for Progress has raised $66,509 so far. In other words: They're just getting started.

Ballots for the primary will be mailed out tomorrow and are due back by August 1.

*Today, the union that advocated for those protections, Unite Here Local 8, announced that five of the six viable mayoral candidates had signed on to a letter urging the Seattle Hotel Association to drop its legal challenge. Notably missing from the letter: Jenny Durkan.