Most anti-monorail funds have come from one developer

The anti-monorail Initiative 83 is being funded predominantly by developer Martin Selig, who provided more than $61,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, out of at least $77,000 raised overall, according to new campaign-finance reports.

Selig's donations include office space, attorney fees and a payment to a signature-gathering firm.

Selig, best known for building the 76-story Bank of America Tower, has called the $1.75 billion monorail "WPPSS on wheels," a reference to the Washington Public Power Supply System nuclear-plant debacle of the 1970s and 1980s. After energy planners overestimated demand for power, that agency began construction on five nuclear plants, only one of which was completed at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Eastern Washington. WPPSS defaulted on its bonds. I-83 would ban or revoke city permits to build a new monorail.

Though Seattle Monorail Project officials say they are confident of eventually voiding the initiative in court, the uncertainty surrounding the measure is making it tougher to sell construction bonds for the proposed Green Line that would connect Ballard, Seattle Center, downtown and West Seattle.

The late surge in petition signatures for I-83 has come at a price — $36,500 spent on paid signature-gatherers.

Monorail Recall President Tim Wulf has likened his group to the nation's founders, a grass-roots group that rebelled against what it considered unfair taxation.

But the payments to professional signature firms, disclosed late Monday in campaign-finance reports, indicate that I-83 may reach the Nov. 2 ballot with only about half its signatures gathered by volunteers.

Selig said yesterday that he was fairly late in joining Monorail Recall and that the movement started with "great Americans" including Wulf, a truck salesman. "You don't get any more grass-roots than that," Selig said.

Peter Sherwin, spokesman for the Monorail Now lobbying organization, said, "It's interesting that the Monorail Recall committee, so called 'grass-roots,' is in fact an initiative to put a wrench in the gears, and over $60,000 in funding comes from one big downtown developer," said Peter Sherwin, spokesman for the Monorail Now lobbying organization.

The pro-monorail side's "grass-roots" credentials, which it says were demonstrated in three winning initiative drives, also have been questioned. The last pro-monorail campaign's $523,349 war chest in 2002 included large donations from contractors, labor unions, financial houses, architects and others who stand to gain from its construction, along with donations from citizens.

Monorail Recall says its volunteers gathered 15,500 of the 22,300 names to date, leaving about 6,800 solicited by paid gatherers. The group paid $16,500 to one firm for 5,500 signatures, and $20,000 to another. (A total of 17,229 signatures is required to get the measure on the ballot, but thousands more must be submitted to make up for invalid signatures that get thrown out.)

Wulf, the I-83 campaign president, said the group decided to pay for the collection of 10,000 more signatures to cover itself because one of the monorail-agency lawsuits seeks to throw out 9,600 signatures gathered before June 18, when a judge reworded the ballot title.

"He (Selig) has stepped up at the last minute to help us with paid signatures," Wulf said. "Prior to that, we've been completely grass roots. He's made a commitment to help us get to the ballot. Once it's on the ballot, he's expecting other people to step up to the plate."

Meanwhile, a recent poll, conducted for monorail critics by Evans/McDonough, found that 44 percent of very frequent voters, after being told the agency had a 30 percent permanent revenue shortage, would support the monorail and 48 percent would not, if an election were held now.

The funders of the poll were Selig; Greg Smith, owner of Gregory Broderick Smith Real Estate; landowner Aaron Alhadeff; and Unico Properties, said pollster Don McDonough, who did pro-monorail polling two years ago.

"I think the city's still feeling split over whether the monorail should proceed," McDonough said. The survey included 500 responses, with a 4.5 percentage-point margin of error.

Monorail Now's Sherwin said the poll does not reflect the potential voter demographics in 2004, a presidential-election year. More young voters would turn out and probably would support the monorail, he said.

"The poll doesn't reflect that at all," Sherwin said. Only one-tenth of those surveyed were younger than 35.

Monorail supporters say OnTrack, a group of critics consisting mainly of downtown business people and neighborhood activists, is improperly aiding Monorail Recall by not listing the poll as a donation. The poll's cover page mentions "OnTrack," but McDonough says it was funded by individuals, not any group.

OnTrack has not been subject to public-disclosure rules. Nor is Monorail Now.

Monorail board member Cindi Laws says that lobbying groups on all sides should be forced to open their books, as is the case with state lobbyists.

The executive director of Seattle Ethics and Elections, Wayne Barnett, said he couldn't comment on whether an inquiry is under way, nor say whether he thinks disclosure rules should be extended. He has been on the job two weeks.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or