More than six months after Election Day, political ad spend numbers from Google still dont match political ad spend numbers Mayor Durkans campaign.
More than six months after Election Day, Google's disclosures are significantly different than the Durkan campaign's. ULYSSES CURRY

Under Seattle and Washington State laws, the public should know, far sooner than six months after Election Day, how much money Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's election campaign spent on Google ads.

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We should have a dollar figure for Google ad purchases from the Durkan campaign, we should have a dollar figure from Google, and those two dollar figures should match. (After factoring in any commissions on the ad purchases paid to third-party vendors.)

But more than six months after Election Day, the numbers from the Durkan campaign and Google continue to differ significantly. Neither the Durkan campaign nor Google has offered an explanation as to why.

Details on one of the Durkan campaigns purchases of Google search ads.
Details on one of the Durkan campaign's purchases of Google search ads. City of Seattle

To recap:

Back in February, when Google first disclosed data on political ads it sold to influence Seattle's 2017 municipal elections, the tech giant reported that the Durkan campaign spent $1,984 on ads through its platforms. The Durkan campaign, meanwhile, reported spending a whole lot more on Google ads: $54,924.50.

Both numbers have since changed, but they're still far from matching up.

The Durkan campaign, in revised disclosures to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, now says it spent $3,403 on Google ads.

That's a large downward revision from Durkan's initial report of $54,924.50 on Google ads.

Sandeep Kaushik, a consultant to Durkan's campaign, explained: "After recently reviewing our campaign filings we discovered an error on the part of one of our vendors had led us to overreport the amount the campaign spent on Google ads."

This is not the first time disclosures from Google have led a Seattle campaign to revise their reporting to the SEEC, and it points to one of the benefits of forcing tech giants to begin disclosing data on political ad purchases: the ability of journalists and other members of the public to audit a campaign's reports for accuracy.

Kaushik continued: "We have corrected the error and the SEEC now has the correct amount: $3,403."

But that amount still doesn't match what Google's currently reporting.

In a revised disclosure it sent to the SEEC earlier this month, Google now says the Durkan campaign spent $1,126 on political ads.

So Durkan says she spent nearly three times as much on Google ads as Google is currently reporting.

What's going on?

The Durkan campaign, while it has confirmed and re-confirmed its new $3,403 number, won't offer further comment.

Google, for its part, has not responded to a number of recent requests for comment from The Stranger regarding local online political ad purchases. It also did not respond to a specific request about current discrepancies between its reporting and reports filed with the SEEC by Seattle campaigns.

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Googles numbers also fail to match those reported by several other campaigns, including the losing city council campaign of Jon Grant.
Google's numbers also fail to match those reported by several other campaigns, including the losing city council campaign of Jon Grant. City of Seattle

The Durkan campaign is not alone in reporting numbers for Google ad purchases in 2017 that don't match Google's current disclosure.

Among the discrepancies:

• The failed city council campaign of Jon Grant spent $465.90 on Google ads, according to its SEEC filings. According to Google, Grant's campaign spent more than 10 times that amount on Google ads: nearly $4,900.

Asked about this discrepancy, Grant told me his political consultant, John Wyble of WinPower Strategies, would be in the best position to offer a clear answer. Wyble has not responded to a question about the difference in dollar amounts disclosed for the campaign's Google ad spend.

(It could be that Grant's campaign bought $4,900 in Google ads but didn't specifically report all of those purchases, instead lumping some Google ad purchases in with other large, general reports of ad buys. But without more information it's impossible to know.)

• The failed mayoral campaign of Cary Moon, through one of its ad vendors, a DC-based firm called Sway, told me earlier this year that the Moon campaign had used Sway to purchase about $9,000 in Google ads. However, Google's latest disclosure shows only $166.30 in Google ads purchased through Sway.

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Moon's political consultant, Heather Weiner of Moxie Media, told me she's looking into the issue.

• The campaign of new Seattle City Council Member Teresa Mosqueda reported to the SEEC that it had spent $26,030 on Google ads. According to Google's latest disclosure, the campaign spent only $20,535 on Google ads.

Mosqueda's political consulting firm, NWP, did not respond to a request for comment on the discrepancy. If the difference between the two numbers represents NWP's commission on the ads, that would be a roughly 27 percent commission on the Google ad purchases—which seems unlikely.

• The failed mayoral campaign of James Norton has not reported any digital ad spending. Google's latest disclosure, while revising Norton's spend downward by a large amount, still says he spent $1,590.47 on political ads.

Norton did not respond to a request for comment.

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One discrepancy that has officially been cleared up with Google's latest disclosure: The Case of the City Attorney's Google Ads.

City Attorney Pete Holmes's Google ad spending in 2017, as reported by both his campaign and Google, was about $21,000.