Paid canvassers gain popularity in campaigns

Paying people to go door to door to hand out literature for political campaigns isn't new, but the practice might be on the upswing, experts say.

State campaign finance reports show that both Republican- and Democratic-oriented groups have employed the practice this campaign season:

- Working Families Who Have Had Enough spent more than $33,000 for people to go door-to-door in the 35th Legislative District primary that pitted Sen. Tim Sheldon and Kyle Taylor Lucas last month. Lucas lost, despite the help provided by the political action committee, which had received its funds from the national Progressive Majority group, the Services Employees International Union and other sources.

- The Building Industry Association of Washington also has spent thousands of dollars through its Walking for Washington effort that targeted a couple of Supreme Court races in the primary and since has targeted key legislative districts around Lakewood, Bonney Lake, Gig Harbor and Kirkland.

- People's Choice for Thurston County, a developer-backed group that has spent $26,200 independently to support Republican county commissioner candidate Kevin O'Sullivan, has spent much of that to hire people to go door to door handing out literature for the candidate or identifying potential supporters.

Other groups also might be using the practice, which one longtime political operative said has been around for some time.

"Paid 'doorbellers' have been used in a very limited fashion over the last decade or so," former state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt of Olympia said. "But it does feel like it's escalated to a whole new level lately."