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Donations few and far between for Whidbey PUD campaign

While enthusiasm abounds for putting a measure on the November ballot for creating a Whidbey-based power company, the campaign to create a new public utility district faces a familiar hurdle: A lack of campaign cash.

Earlier this month, "People For Yes on Whidbey PUD" submitted petitions with more than 3,200 signatures to place the formation of a public utility district on the November ballot.

But according to reports on file with the Public Disclosure Commission, the state's campaign watchdog, the "People" campaign has raised little money so far for its David-versus-Goliath fight against Puget Sound Energy, the Bellevue-based utility that provides electricity to roughly 34,000 customers on Whidbey Island. The Whidbey PUD hopes to take over PSE's territory on Whidbey, and voter approval to form the district in November would be a mandatory first step.

"People For Yes on Whidbey PUD" registered as a political committee with the state on May 7.

Since the start of May, however, the group has only raised contributions of $394 — with $100 of that amount coming from a contribution by Bob Kuehn. The $394 figure includes cash and in-kind donations.

In recent weeks, supporters of the Whidbey PUD have bemoaned the possibility of a deep-pocketed PSE financing an extensive opposition campaign.

Still, Kuehn — who is the treasurer for "People For Yes on Whidbey PUD" — said the amount of campaign cash raised so far isn't surprising. Supporters have been busy elsewhere, he said.

"Our primary effort was to get signatures, period," Kuehn said.

"We had a donation jar at a few tables but mostly it was volunteers on their feet with clipboards. The only real attempt at asking for donations was at our Power Up Democracy Forum where we passed the hat and that was the bulk of our funds."

Kuehn said the organization will start a donation team to actively seek support.

"Our strategy will not require huge amounts of money like PSE must," he added. "We will work on a local, one-on-one level, a place PSE can never go. This truly is a grassroots, democratic movement."

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