(In last week’s article, $656,158.84 + millions more, we wrote about how PSE spent millions against the Thurston Public Power Initiative. In this we show how they spend on PUD Commissioner races.)
PSE’s hatred of democracy and active work at undermining it and destroying the legitimacy of the electoral process didn’t start or stop with their abuse during the 2012 Thurston Public Power Initiative. It actually goes far back in time not just in Thurston County but across the state and likely other states and countries. The breadth and depth of their hatred of democracy is hard to calculate. However because of the Public Disclosure Commission we can see into a tiny window of it’s deceitful corruption of our elections. Here in Thurston County we can see it in their interference in multiple Public Utility District Commissioner election campaigns.
Before 2012, PUD Commissioner elections were a sleepy affair. Only political wonks here paid much attention because the PUD only ran a few rural water districts and it was seen as a dead end for most looking for entry into the world of politics. Generally speaking those that ran were interested in running a great public utility district for water and moderate expanding in helping small communities by taking over their burden of water system management. It was a position for an experienced and public service minded individual.
In fact, every campaign before 2012 used the PDC mini reporting, which meant that they raised less than $5,000 for their campaign, in most cases much less. It was word of mouth campaigning, getting endorsements from community groups, political parties, unions and individuals who could vouch for your experience. Then in 2012 the Thurston Public Power Initiative launched and the election of PUD Commissioner became diligently watched with money pouring in.
In 2012 there was also a concurrent commissioner campaign as the Thurston Public Power Initiative. The PUD has three commissioners who serve six years each with one being elected on every even election year. That year two main candidates faced off. One was Steven Fossum who supported the Public Power Initiative and the second candidate was Linda Oosterman who claimed neutrality. The claim of neutrality was the first lie apparent of PSE’s chosen political hack.
Linda Oosterman was the perfect political stooge for PSE to run. She was a Democrat Party volunteer who had made the right friends supporting the corporate Democrats without ruffling feathers. She was never going to rock the boat, why should she? As a mid level manager in government for decades life was good for her as she moved towards retirement. She had no complaints and enjoyed hob nobbing at the fancy Democrat fundraising dinners. She was a capable bureaucrat who could evade answering complicated questions and give enough smiling platitudes. Her morality was based in the idea that the status quo was great and good for everyone. Well, at least everyone she knew.
Let there be no doubt that she is pro PSE and against public power. During her campaign claiming neutrality was a calculative move to win over some. Many supposed progressives would use that claim as the political cover they needed in supporting her as a way of not sounding like corporate stooges themselves. There are many wolves in sheep’s clothing in our local politics all too willing to speak in duplicitous ways.
Money talks. Linda Oosterman got all the money she needed from PSE. Her campaign raised $8,606.56. Of that at least $2,466 was directly contributed by PSE VP’s and Directors or the employees of the political firm they hired, Strategies 360. Many other contributions came from people like former State Senator Karen Fraser, who gave $375, who has taken massive amounts from PSE her entire political career. Then there is State Representative Chris Reykdal who, along with his wife, gave a combined $500 and has received massively more than that from PSE over the years of his career.
If we went down the list of Oosterman supporters we would probably find many more connections to PSE. However, despite this huge support from PSE’s lackies to their stooge, Linda wasn’t able to raise enough from real human beings to run a good enough campaign to win on her own. Her opponent, Steven Fossum, just barely out-raised her with his pro public power position. He raised $9,371.63 from real people, not paid guns and corrupt politicians. It looked like it would be a tight race with Steven Fossum looking the likely winner, he definitely had more volunteers and a bit extra cash.
PSE wouldn’t leave something like an election to chance. Their hatred of democracy and their love of our money flowing into their pockets, meant that they had to do something. So that’s what they did. As an “independent expenditure” PSE’s astroturf (fake grassroots) group gave Oosterman’s stagnant campaign a huge boost. They more than doubled the amount she raised with a mailer to every voter in the county that cost $8,993.80. That was enough to seal the deal.
Linda Oosterman became PSE’s PUD Comissioner on the Thurston Public Utility District. She was purchased by PSE to serve a second term in 2018. Oosterman tried even less in that election, raising less than her opponent again with $5,565.29 and oddly none of it seemed to come from PSE. Many progressives pointed to that and said, “See she’s not PSE’s stooge, they aren’t even supporting her this time around!” It was good political cover once again for duplicitous treachery. Once again everyone was wrong, PSE wasn’t going to let their stooge have even the chance of losing.
Once again at the end of the campaign, as the ballots were being mailed out, a glossy mailer was delivered to every voter in Thurston County in support of Oosterman. The mailer was from an “independent contributor” that was funded by PSE and spent $9,952.49. It more than double how much was spent on her campaign and allowed her to win again, although which a lower victory margin.
This illustrates the depth of PSE’s determination to destroy our democracy. Large corporations hate democracy. They hate that their greed could be corralled by the simpletons that they feed off of. They are afraid of the power of the people fighting for public ownership of their monopoly electric utility. And there are plenty of spineless shills willing to be their lapdogs like Oosterman. Together we can unmask them for their duplicity. Together we can overcome the power of PSE at corrupting our democracy!