Who’s really in the driver’s seat on Puget Sound transit spending?

Transportation Choices Coalition has evolved from a community group advocating for bike, pedestrian and transit options into a political powerhouse with little transparency that coordinates ballot measures and raising billions for transportation megaprojects.

As the Puget Sound region debated the Sound Transit 3 campaign last fall, insiders were offered a glimpse into the political machine driving the $54 billion ballot measure.

They learned how Transportation Choices Coalition, a small but well-connected Seattle advocacy group, shaped and won elections raising billions from taxpayers, over and over again.

TCC Executive Director Shefali Ranganathan couldn’t help but boast in her plenary speech to a National Association of Transportation Officials conference in Seattle last September.

“Every single day we push, we challenge, we support and we empower the people that run this city to be better, and we have a lot to show for it … in the last eight years we have won more than $20 billion in transportation investments for this region,” she said.

Two months later, the TCC-led campaign for Sound Transit 3 was victorious, winning 54 percent of the vote and pushing that tally over $74 billion.

Yet despite TCC’s remarkable political success and influence on the public purse, it has never registered as a political committee with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

The public is left in the dark about who is paying what to obtain this sizable influence over public spending and transportation policy for several reasons:

• Gaps in Washington state’s public disclosure rules for political actors.

• TCC’s decision to withhold contributor details from the public.

• The group’s questionable use of federal charity rules, reporting itself as a largely apolitical entity eligible to attain the most generous nonprofit status.

More apparent is the cozy relationship TCC has with elected officials and public…

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