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Bill And Melinda Gates Contribute To Washington Gun Control Measure

Augustas Didzgalvis

Bill and Melinda Gates have each contributed $25,000 to the campaign to require background checks for most gun sales in Washington.

The couple’s personal contributions late last month helped push the Yes on Initiative 594 campaign over the $1 million mark. Other big money donors to the campaign reads like a who’s who list: venture capitalist Nick Hanauer; Connie Ballmer, wife of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

These prominent backers are among more than 2,000 donors to the campaign to require criminal background checks for person-to-person gun sales in Washington. A similar effort failed in the legislature earlier this year.

“It’s almost becoming the norm that you can’t get on the ballot without a wealthy patron, so reform groups try to make contact with some of these billionaires who’ve taken a liking to some of the issues that get on the ballot through the initiative process,” says Todd Donovan, a political science professor at Western Washington University.

He also notes that Bill Gates also helped bankroll last year’s charter school ballot measure in Washington.

Initiative 594 backers are still in the signature gathering phase, as are sponsors of a counter measure funded by gun rights groups.

Backers of Initiative 591 have raised nearly $700,000 from groups including the Citizens Committee for the Right To Keep And Bear Arms, the Gun Owners Action League and Washington Arms Collectors.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."