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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Unraveling Who's Behind Those Negative Ads On TV In Washington

The New Direction PAC
An ad targeting Republican Washington state Sen. Steve O'Ban was paid for by PACs run by Washington House and Senate Democrats.

Negative ads work. That’s why political campaigns air them. But these days figuring out who’s funding them can be like unraveling a mystery. And to follow the money you have to unpack and keeping unpacking the PACS.

Take this ad that tries to tie Republican state Sen. Steve O’Ban to Donald Trump:

At the end of this 30-second spot, a message appears: “Paid for by The New Direction PAC.” The top five contributors include the Harry Truman Fund and the Kennedy Fund.

What are they? And who funds them?

These are the names of political committees run by Washington House and Senate Democrats. Their biggest funders include the state’s teachers union and the Service Employees International Union.

On the Republican side there’s the Good Government Leadership Council. Its top contributor is The Leadership Council. That’s the Senate Republican’s political committee. Its major funder is the Republican State Leadership Committee -- whose top funder, according to, is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.