A look at some campaign donations for conservative candidate for Whatcom County Executive, Tony Larson / Facebook post, Sj Robson

Click the graphic to access Tony Larson’s campaign information on thePublic Disclosure Commission website

July 5, 2019 Sandy Robson

While many in Whatcom County are focusing on the City of Bellingham mayoral race, some other election races appear to be getting largely ignored. I think the most important election race this year is the one for Whatcom County Executive, so I want to put some attention today on this very important race by posting this information. There are four candidates running for County Executive: Democratic candidates Karen Burke, Satpal Sidhu, and Jim Boyle, and conservative candidate, Tony Larson. 

Larson, who has been nicknamed “Tea Party Tony” for his activities over the years in local politics, has already received over $54,000 in campaign contributions. Close to fifty percent of those are maximum dollar amount contributions ($1,000 per election – primary and general) made by companies and/or those companies’ owners. A number of those contributors serve as board members for the Whatcom Business Alliance. 

The Whatcom Business Alliance (WBA) is a Bellingham-based business advocacy organization, founded by Tony Larson. The WBA was a big advocate for the then-proposed Gateway Pacific coal terminal at Cherry Point shortly after the business advocacy organization was founded in April of 2012. Several years ago, “Gateway Pacific Terminal” was listed as a Presidents Club Member on the WBA’s website. At that time, WBA Presidents Club members paid $5,000 annually for that top level membership. The WBA is also a leading advocate for additional fossil fuel development at Cherry Point. 

This election season, numerous companies and their wealthy owners are putting their money on their golden boy, Tony Larson, in an effort to install him in the County’s Executive office where he would oversee the County Planning and Development Services Department (PDS). PDS exercises a large degree of control over land use and permitting in our county. The decisions the department makes, and actions it takes, can mean the difference in getting projects such as new or expansion fossil fuel projects at Cherry Point permitted. The county executive has the power to influence PDS and its decisions and actions since the department is under the executive’s purview. 

I’ve also attached two screenshots which show the top 45 contributors to Larson’s campaign according to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission’s website.

Click the Graphic to access this information on the Public Disclosure Commission website

Some, not all, of those contributions to Larson’s campaign are listed below (totaling $38,000) along with some relevant details:

Saturna Capital – $2,000
Jane Carten – $2,000
Nick Kaiser – $2,000

Jane Carten is President, Director of Saturna Capital, and she is the daughter of Nick Kaiser, the founder and Chairman of Saturna Capital. Carten also serves on the Executive Board of Tony Larson’s Whatcom Business Alliance. 
Owlet.com estimated Saturna Capital’s annual revenue to be $31.4 million. Saturna Capital is a privately owned investment manager. 

Saturna and Nick Kaiser have made some other noteworthy campaign contributions to local political candidates and political issues:
In the 2015 election, Kaiser donated $10,000 to the Whatcom County Republican Party. That was a significant election year in Whatcom County as that was the year the conservative majority on the Charter Review Commission proposed a district only voting charter amendment which was then placed on the November 2015 general election ballot. That measure was ultimately approved by voters, and we are getting the full effect of that voting system in this year’s election. 

Back in 2013, Saturna Capital contributed $3,500 to the coal interest-funded SAVEWhatcom PAC. That same year (2013), Nick Kaiser also donated $6,400 to the Whatcom County Republican Party PAC. 

That 2013 Whatcom County election was monumental because coal terminal interests were attempting to sway the outcome of the election toward four conservative county council candidates who were thought most likely to approve the permit needed for the coal export terminal project: Ben Elenbaas, Kathy Kershner, Bill Knutzen, and Michelle Luke. 

However, the majority of voters in the 2013 election rejected those coal-interest funded conservative candidates, and chose instead, to elect four progressive candidates to the County Council who were thought to be more prone to protect the environment and less likely to approve the permit that would have been needed for the then-proposed project. Those four progressive candidates elected to the council were Carl Weimer, Rud Browne, Barry Buchanan, and Ken Mann.

John Ferlin – $2,000
Mimi Ferlin – $2,000
Roosevelt Land Company – $2,000
J&M’s LLC – $2,000
Brooks Manufacturing – $2,000

Several years ago, Roosevelt Land Co., John and Mary Ferlin, and Brooks Manufacturing were parties to a lawsuit against the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District (often referred to by community members as “The Hundred Acre Wood”), Whatcom County and Bellingham. J&M’s LLC, Roosevelt Land Company, and Brooks Manufacturing are owned by the Ferlins. 

A June 23, 2016 Bellingham Herald article reported that the lawsuit was an effort to “dissolve the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District and end the property tax that went with it…” John and Mary Ferlin of Ferlin Family Living Trust, J & M’s LLC, Brooks Manufacturing Co., and Roosevelt Land Co. filed the lawsuit. They were unsuccessful in prevailing in their lawsuit which went all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court. Link to article: https://www.bellinghamherald.com/…/loc…/article85644287.html

Enfield Farms – $2,000
Linda Enfield – $2,000
Marvin Enfield – $2,000
Northwest Plant Company – $2,000

According to buzzfile.com, Enfield Farms is estimated to generate $3.4 million in annual revenues. Yeswhatcom.com describes Enfield Farms as “an elite grower and packager of raspberries and blueberries distributed around the globe.” Enfield Farms’ Vice President, Andy Enfield, serves on the Whatcom Business Alliance’s Board of Directors.

Fastcap – $2,000

Fastcap, owned by Paul Akers, has an estimated annual sales of $10 million to 12 million, according to a July 2017 Seattle Times article. The article reported that in 2010, Akers, a Republican, ran for the U.S. Senate, “pumping more than $400,000” of his own money into the primary race. It’s no surprise he didn’t make it through the primary as he was running against incumbent Democrat Patty Murray, Republican favorite Dino Rossi, Clint Didier who appealed to many tea-partiers, and eleven other candidates in the primary race. According to buzzfile.com, Fastcap is estimated to generate $5.3 million in annual revenues. 

The Seattle Times article reported: “Akers’ views follow a conservative agenda: He opposes the recently passed federal health-care law and supports Arizona’s tough immigration law. He backs gun-owners’ rights, favors term limits, and opposes affirmative action and same-sex marriage.”
Link to Seattle Times article: https://www.seattletimes.com/…/bellingham-entrepreneur-pau…/

Western Refinery Services – $2,000

Western Refinery Services (WRS) does business in the local refineries as well as other industries in the Pacific Northwest. According to Buzzfile.com, WRS is estimated to generate $31.6 million in annual revenues. WRS’s president/CEO, Billy VanZanten, serves on the Whatcom Business Alliance’s Board of Directors.

Bellingham Cold Storage – $2,000

According to its website, Bellingham Cold Storage (BCS) is a full-service public refrigerated warehousing company, and is now the largest portside cold storage on the West Coast, serving a worldwide customer base. A 2012 report found through BCS’ website shows that, back at that time, BCS’ annual revenue was $15-$20 million. Doug Thomas is President and CEO of BCS, and has a minority stake in the company as part of the sale of the company in 2018. Thomas’ LinkedIn page shows that he is Chair of the Board of Directors and serves on the Executive Board of the Whatcom Business Alliance. 

Birch Equipment – $2,000

Birch Equipment, according to its website, specializes in commercial construction, industrial, government and home improvement. The company’s rental & sales market extends seasonally from Montana to Western Alaska. Owlet.com shows Birch Equipment’s annual revenue to be estimated at $20 million. Sarah Rothenbuhler is the owner, president and CEO of Birch Equipment. Ms. Rothenbuhler serves on the Whatcom Business Alliance’s Board of Directors.

Hollander Hospitality – $2,000
Mark Hollander – $2,000

Mark Hollander is president of Hollander Hospitality. His business is hotels and real estate/development.

TCM Bellingham – $2,000

Washington Secretary of State’s online records show Bryant Engbretson is listed as the governing officer for TCM Bellingham. TCM (Tradewinds Capital Management) offers to its clients wealth management and financial planning services. Mr. Engbretson, who is the managing principal of TCM Bellingham, also serves on Whatcom Business Alliance’s Board of Directors. 

I suspect sometime in the near future, there will be a political action committee (PAC) created to support Tony Larson’s campaign, thus enabling donors to circumvent contribution limits. If a PAC were to be created to support Larson’s campaign, there will be no limit to the amount of money which companies, individuals, political parties, and groups can contribute by first funneling it through a PAC, which in-turn can contribute large sums to Larson’s campaign.

Read Sandy’s post on her Facebook page here.

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