About two weeks before becoming interim mayor, Tim Burgess donated $5,000 to the Chamber of Commerce's political action committee.
The Chamber represents 2,200 businesses and has recently argued against new taxes on business to fund labor law enforcement and new worker protections*. In his decade on council, Burgess has sided with the Chamber on issues including anti-panhandling legislation, homeless encampment sweeps, and the downtown tunnel. He helped lead the repeal of the so-called "head tax" on businesses with support from the Chamber. The Chamber's PAC, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy or CASE, donates to candidates for local office and to independent expenditure committees that advertise on candidates' behalf.
It's common for an elected official to donate to a candidate running for office or a colleague running for re-election. But donating to the Chamber's PAC is not the norm. According to records from the state Public Disclosure Commission, Burgess has not donated to CASE before. Neither have any of the current city council members or their immediate predecessors Sally Clark, Richard Conlin, Jean Godden, and Tom Rasmussen.
Burgess did not respond to a request for comment. Like the Chamber, Burgess has endorsed Jenny Durkan for mayor. By donating to CASE on top of donating directly to Durkan's campaign, Burgess is able to support Durkan beyond the $500 cap on donations to campaigns. UPDATE: In a text message, Burgess says, "They support some of the same candidates I support, for example [Council Member] Lorena [González], Jenny and [King County Executive] Dow [Constantine]."
In the primary election this year, CASE was the largest contributor to an independent expenditure committee that funded ads backing Jenny Durkan. CASE gave $86,000 to that expenditure. That could be repeated before the November 7 general election. CASE currently has $555,830 on hand and has raised $180,850 of that since the primary.
This year, CASE's largest contribution came from Amazon, which gave $250,000. Vulcan, Century Link, Comcast, Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, the Washington Association of Realtors, and the hotel developer Hedreen are also among CASE's top donors. Some of CASE's donors are the same companies that donated to a campaign against the 2010 statewide income tax, including Expedia, Alaska, the developer Clise Properties.
Back in 2015, CASE spent $150,000 on a pro-Burgess independent expenditure.
*The Chamber is notoriously mealymouthed in characterizing its positions. Back in 2011, they said about paid sick leave that they weren't "in the 'hell no' camp" but argued it would hurt employers. The group insists it did not "oppose" last year's secure scheduling ordinance, but said in a letter to the city council last fall that the legislation could have "unintended and negative consequences." Burgess supported both of those measures, though he called the sick leave vote "very difficult."