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Both groups in PUD campaign funded by off-islanders

Campaign finance records show both sides of the hotly-debated ballot measure to form a Whidbey-based power company are being financed by off-island sources.

“Whidbey Consumers for Affordable Energy” is solely financed by Puget Sound Energy, while “People For Yes on Whidbey PUD” has gotten most of its cash from the Olympia-based trade-group Washington Public Utilities Association.

The anti-PUD group is being led by the political strategy firm Strategies 360, according to a review of records filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission. The campaign got $50,000 in cash from Puget Sound Energy and $505.44 in in-kind donations from the utility company.

The political action committee spent $1,409 on anti-PUD signs that were planted all across the island on Labor Day weekend.

According to the campaign’s records, $18,051 remains in the group’s campaign war chest.

“People For Yes” have amassed $16,873 in cash and in-kind donations, including $2,998 for yard signs and $910 in staff time that was paid for by the Washington Public Utilities Association. The association has also paid more than $5,000 in salary to Dave Metheny, the “People For Yes” campaign chairman.

Washington Public Utilities Association also paid for a number of newspaper ads to advertise the “People For Yes” Power Palooza forums.

Local donations have come in very small increments, including a $100 donation from a Clinton resident and $10 from a “People For Yes” fundraiser.

Metheny said while there has been lots of interest in the issue, fundraising has been going slowly.

“People For Yes” still has $2,727 in its campaign coffers.

On the anti-PUD side, campaign records did not reveal any surprises; there are no other contributors but PSE.

A spokeswoman for “Whidbey Consumers for Affordable Energy” stressed that neither money from PSE ratepayers was used to print the signs, nor will taxpayers have to pay for the removal of signs that were improperly placed.

“The money being used is shareholder money, not ratepayer money,” said Karen Waters of 360 Strategies.

“Washington state law prohibits utilities from using revenue from ratepayers to pay for political campaigns and lobbying,” added Martha Monfried of PSE.

“We adhere to the law. Puget Energy shareholder dollars pay for these expenses. They are never recovered in PSE customers rates, because our accounting keeps them separate,” she said.

Waters said PSE is backing the political committee because the company has strong concerns about the impact of municipalization on its business and on the consumers and taxpayers of Whidbey.

PSE also donated $70,000 to the “Skagit Committee for Reliable & Affordable Energy” for anti-PUD campaigns in that county, as well as $60,000 to “Jefferson County Citizens Against Prop. 1.”

Waters said the anti-PUD group will soon have local members.

“We are actively lining up supporters across the island who are concerned about giving a newly formed PUD a blank check,” she said.

The group also has a Web site, www.NoWhidbeyPUDdist1.org.

Information on the benefits of a PUD is available at www.whidbeypud.org.

The next updated financial campaign reports are due on Oct. 14.

Michaela Marx Wheatley can be reached at 221-5300 or mmarxwheatley@south

whidbeyrecord.com.

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