PACIFIC COUNTY — Residents of Pacific County opened up their pocketbooks in droves over the past two years, making thousands of donations to favored political causes in a way that hasn’t been seen before.
Over the two-year cycle in 2019 and 2020, more than 1,600 county residents combined to give nearly $900,000 to political candidates, committees and causes at the federal level, a staggering sum that crushes totals from other recent presidential election cycles. In all, more than 28,000 contributions were made in the county during the cycle, up almost four-fold from just four years prior.
South county donations soarThe data, tracked by the Federal Elections Commission and analyzed by the Observer, shows that even amidst a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that continues to run roughshod over the local economy, the stakes in 2020 were apparently too high for locals to sit out — especially those in south county.
Of the $890,000 countywide sum in 2019 and 2020, about $730,000 — 82% — came from residents of south county communities, including Long Beach, Ilwaco, Ocean Park, Seaview, Nahcotta, Oysterville, Chinook and Naselle. The south county total is up markedly from the $205,000 that was donated over the same two-year cycle four years prior, in 2015 and 2016.
As they did in 2016, Ocean Park residents led the way in giving throughout the county for the 2020 elections, with almost 500 individuals combining to donate about $243,000 — up from $64,000. While the community is among the poorest in Pacific County, it has a large share of retirees, who represent an outsized share of the political donor class.
Donations also surged in Long Beach, from 81 individual donors combining to give about $41,000 in 2016, to nearly 320 individuals giving $147,000 in 2020. The story was the same in Chinook, with donors giving about $97,000 in 2020 after giving just $9,000 in 2016, an almost 11-fold increase in just four years.
Raymond led the pack among north county communities in 2020, with more than 250 donors combining to give about $91,000 — up from just $27,000 in 2016. South Bend went from about $15,000 to $40,000, Tokeland shot up to $18,000 from $2,000, and Bay Center went from $2,000 to $9,000.
The outpouring of political donations in Pacific County for the 2020 elections is far from an isolated incident. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks fundraising and spending by political candidates and committees, estimated in October that the total cost of the 2020 federal elections would hit nearly $14 billion. That figure is more than double the cost of the 2016 elections, and more expensive than the cost of the 2012 and 2016 elections combined.
Spending surge benefits allPolitical candidates and causes of all stripes appeared to have benefited from the spending surge in Pacific County in 2019 and 2020, although recent electoral trends show up in the data.
Of the $890,000 given in 2019 and 2020 by Pacific County residents, 59% — about $525,000 — went to Democratic-aligned candidates or committees, 39% went to Republican-aligned interests, and the remaining 2% went to committees without a clear partisan slant. In 2016, 67% of money donated — about $169,000 — went to Democrats, 25% went to Republicans, and 8% went to nonpartisan groups.
In south county, 63% of donated money went to Democratic causes in 2020, and 36% went to Republicans. And of the roughly 1,200 unique individual donors in south county in 2020, 871 — 73% — contributed to the Democrats.
Donations to Democratic candidates and liberal organizations shot up in Long Beach, as 59% of all money — about $87,000 — backed the party, compared to 43% — $18,000 — in 2016. Last year, Joe Biden won the Long Beach precinct with 55% of the vote, after Hillary Clinton received 45% and narrowly lost the city in 2016.
Meanwhile, donations to Republicans soared in Naselle in 2020. After just six donors combined to give only $290 to Republican groups in 2016, 33 donors gave about $21,000 last year — up a remarkable 72-fold. After receiving 55% of the vote in Naselle in 2016, Donald Trump received 61% of the vote last November, and was the Pacific County community he improved his margin upon the most in 2020.
In north county, donations to Republican causes exploded last year. In 2016, just 19% — about $9,000 — of north county donations went to GOP-backed groups. That figure shot up to 53% — about $84,000 — in 2020.
The biggest gains for Republicans in north county was in Raymond. After just 18 GOP donors in the city gave $6,000 in 2016, 93 donors gave $51,000 last year. Trump won the city in both of his presidential bids — receiving 53% of the vote in 2020 and 51% in 2016 — after Barack Obama won the city handily in 2012 and 2008.
The data also showed that Republican donors in Pacific County were more likely to cut bigger one-time checks in 2020 than their counterparts, while Democratic donors were more likely to give smaller amounts but in larger volumes.
The average contribution to Republican-aligned causes from Pacific County donors was $57.55, and the average total amount an individual GOP donor gave was $744.22. The average contribution to Democratic-aligned groups among local donors was $23.97, and the average overall amount an individual Democratic donor gave was $457.06.