Election Crank: But Wait—It Gets Even MORE Confusing

Some campaign updates as the August 6 primary (and the narrowing of the Seattle City Council elections from dozens of candidates to just 14) approaches…

1. As I reported on Twitter last weekend, the political action committee for the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, just spent more than $307,000 on mail, canvassing, literature, and direct mail for its endorsed candidates in all seven city council races.

But the bulk of the money—$260,350—went to three candidates: Lisa Herbold challenger Phillip Tavel, who ran for the same position in 2015 and didn’t make it through the primary ($77,750); former Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce leader Egan Orion, who’s challenging Kshama Sawant ($107,400); and Seattle Police Department  crime prevention coordinator Mark Solomon, who’s running for the seat being vacated by Bruce Harrell, where community organizer Tammy Morales is the presumed frontrunner ($75,200).

Next week, Jay Fathi (D6) and Michael George (D7) will ask to be released from the $75,000 spending cap on the grounds that the Seattle Chamber is spending money on behalf of one of their competitors—Wills in Fathi’s case, and Pugel in George’s. Of course, CASE is also spending money on behalf of Fathi and George in those races, so both are essentially arguing that they should be released from the spending cap because of spending by their own political benefactors.

2. Candidates for districted city council seats who participate in the democracy voucher program are theoretically limited to raising and spending a maximum of $75,000 in the primary election (and another $75,000 in the general), but that isn’t how it’s working out in practice. As of this writing, at least 16 candidates running for the seven districted council seats have asked to have their spending caps, or the caps on both spending and contributions, lifted because their opponents have either raised more than $75,000 or have had more than $75,000 spent on their behalf. (SEEC director Wayne Barnett provided a list of candidates who’ve been released from the caps).
Under the somewhat byzantine rules of the city’s new system, candidates in this year’s council elections who accept public funding through democracy vouchers (coupons worth $100 that are given to every Seattle voter to spend on the candidate or candidates of their choice) can’t spend more than $75,000 unless one of two things happens: a) another candidate in the race who isn’t participating in the voucher system, and therefore isn’t subject to spending limits, spends more than $75,000, or b) a political action committee spends enough on behalf of a candidate that the total expenditures on that candidate’s behalf top $75,000. In the former situation (when, say, Kshama Sawant outspends all of her opponents and isn’t subject to democracy voucher caps), candidates can ask to have both the spending limit and the $250 cap on individual contributions lifted. (The contribution limit for non-voucher candidates is $500). In the latter situatiom (when, say, the Seattle Metro’s PAC spends $77,000 to defeat incumbent Lisa Herbold, but no candidate in the race has spent more than $75,000 on their own), the candidates can only be released from spending, but not contribution, limits.
Support The C Is for Crank
Sorry to interrupt your reading, but THIS IS IMPORTANT. The C Is for Crank is a one-person operation, supported entirely—and I mean entirely— by generous contributions from readers like you. If you enjoy the breaking news, commentary, and deep dives on issues that matter to you, please support this work by donating a few bucks a month to keep this reader-supported site going. I can’t do this work without support from readers like you. Your $5, $10, and $20 monthly donations allow me to do this work as my full-time job, so please become a sustaining supporter now. If you don’t wish to become a monthly contributor, you can always make a one-time donation via PayPal, Venmo (Erica-Barnett-7) or by mailing your contribution to P.O. Box 14328, Seattle, WA 98104. Thank you for keeping The C Is for Crank going and growing. I’m truly grateful for your support.
The candidates who have been given approval to spend more than $75,000 are: Lisa Herbold in District 1 (because of CASE spending on Phil Tavel’s behalf); Tammy Morales, Phyllis Porter, Christopher Peguero, and Mark Solomon in District 2 (because Ari Hoffman has raised more than $75,000, they are also released from contribution caps—including Solomon, who is also benefiting from the Chamber’s largesse); Ami Nguyen, Logan Bowers, Pat Murakami, Zach DeWolf, and Egan Orion in District 3 (because Kshama Sawant has raised more than $75,000, all the other candidates are also released from contribution caps; Orion, like Solomon, is getting help from the Chamber as well); Emily Myers and Shaun Scott in District 4 (because of CASE spending on Alex Pedersen’s behalf); no one (!) in District 5 (as of July 2, incumbent Debora Juarez had raised just $43,000); Dan Strauss, Kate Martin, and Sergio Garcia in District 6 (because of CASE spending on Jay Fathi and Heidi Wills’ behalf); and Andrew Lewis in District 7 (because of CASE spending on behalf of Jim Pugel and Michael George.)
Whew!
But wait: It gets even more confusing. Next Tuesday, July 8, Fathi (D6) and George (D7) will both appear in front of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to ask to be released from the $75,000 spending cap on the grounds that CASE is spending money on behalf of one of their competitors—Wills in Fathi’s case, and Pugel in George’s. Of course, CASE is also spending money on behalf of Fathi and George in those races, so both are essentially arguing that they should be released from the spending cap because of spending by their own political benefactors.
This will look even weirder if, as seems likely, CASE puts out literature suggesting that voters pick either George or Pugel, and either Wills or Fathi, in those races—a scenario that will benefit all four candidates, not just Wills and Pugel. Not only that: George, Fathi, and CASE all share a financial compliance firm, Blue Wave Politics, which means that the same company is behind the campaigns benefiting from CASE spending, the campaigns asking to be allowed to spend more money because of CASE spending, and CASE itself. Pretty sure that this wasn’t exactly what the backers of democracy vouchers had in mind when they said the system would help get money out of politics.

Not only that: George, Fathi, and CASE all share a financial compliance firm, which means that the same company is behind the campaigns benefiting from CASE spending, the campaigns asking to be allowed to spend more money because of CASE spending, and CASE itself.

3. Speak Out Seattle, a group of self-described “concerned citizens” that held a series of controversial campaign forums earlier this year, has released its own list of endorsements—a roster that could have been lifted straight from the Facebook page of Safe Seattle, an online group that promotes conspiracy theories, false allegations, and harmful “solutions” for Seattle’s homelessness crisis. The candidates SOS has endorsed, in order of district, are: Ex-cop Brendan Kolding (District 1); both Solomon and conservative business owner Ari Hoffman (District 2); Mount Baker neighborhood activist Pat Murakami (District 3); Pedersen (District 4); attorney Ann Davison Sattler (District 5); Wills; and George. Safe Seattle, which is separate from SOS but has expressed many of the same views about homelessness, housing, and addiction, has frequently promoted Davison Sattler and Hoffman on their Facebook page.

When I entered the furthest-left positions on AlignVote’s questions about homelessness, “safe injection,” and housing in District 2, it suggested I vote for stunt candidate Omari Tahir-Garrett.

4. Davison Sattler created quite a stir at a recent candidate forum in District 5, which I was moderating, when she responded to a question about reducing emissions by calling climate change a “luxury item” compared to immediate problems like “keeping our city clean.”
Over shouts of disbelief from some audience members, Davison Sattler continued: “If we cannot even keep our city clean, I feel like we are in no place to be talking about issues like this. This is absurd that we are talking about this, yet we cannot keep our city clean. … We have to be taking care of things that are clearly on everyone’s minds, which is the state of our streets.”
During the same debate, Davison Sattler said she supported a “FEMA-style response” to homelessness; suggested putting a new North Seattle community center inside a new police precinct across the street from North Seattle Community College, where the event was being held; and said that some businesses near a now-dismantled authorized encampment at Licton Springs “could not even keep their employees for more than a few hours” because they had to wade through human feces, litter, and needles near the encampments.
No word yet on how candidates and activists who talk about the presence of “human feces” all over the city’s sidewalks can distinguish human from dog feces in a city where housed dogs outnumber unsheltered humans by about 45 to 1.

D5 candidate Ann Davison Sattler created a stir when she responded to a question about reducing emissions by calling climate change a “luxury item” compared to immediate problems like “keeping our city clean.”

5. SOS leader Steve Murch has created a voter guide called AlignVote, which (like SOS) purports to be a “nonpartisan” and unbiased guide to the candidates’ positions. In reality, the tool functions as a push poll for SOS’s positions on supervised consumption sites, rent control, and other issues—characterizing rent control, for example, as a policy that imposes “further restrictions on what prices landlords can charge.” (Another question, about police accountability, prevented these two possible responses as a binary choice: “The Seattle Police Department has major work to still do to restore more fairness and equity” and “The City Council needs to be more supportive of our police.”) When I entered the furthest-left positions on AlignVote’s questions about homelessness, “safe injection,” and housing in District 2, it suggested I vote for stunt candidate Omari Tahir-Garrett.

7 thoughts on “Election Crank: But Wait—It Gets Even MORE Confusing”

  1. I don’t understand, in the first place, why PACs are allowed to contribute unlimited amounts while individuals are held down to either $250 or $500 in Seattle elections. And the PAC amounts we are talking about are so gigantic compared to individual contributions – for instance, the CASE money favoring Mark Solomon is several times larger than Solomon has been able to raise from all other sources *combined*. Our whole goal is to get big money out of politics in this city – hence the Democracy Vouchers – but PACs are allowed to do whatever they like regardless; this is a loophole the size of a black hole.

    1. I don’t know that it is “our whole goal’ to get big money out of politicis in Seattle. That depends on who you mean by “our”. It obviously is not the goal of the corporations and the Chamber who have formed the current PACs.

  2. “…characterizing rent control, for example, as a policy that imposes ‘further restrictions on what prices landlords can charge.'”

    Simply do a Google search on “define rent control”, and you will get:

    “noun: government control and regulation of the amounts charged for rented housing.”

  3. Re SOS endorsements. I can understand your concern about Ari Hoffman. But Mark Solomon, as just one example, is also endorsed by former Mayor Norm Rice, Former Mayor Charley Royer, State Representative Eric Pettigrew and State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos.

    We currently have 4 Hispanics on the Council — Gonzalez, Juarez, Mosqueda, Pacheco. This is great, but we also have a greater number of African Americans in Seattle. Mark Solomon is the only viable black candidate to replace Bruce Harrell. But I don’t see you discussing this at all. Even though The Stranger (of all publications, not exactly an advocate for our communities) has.

    We see how the social justice activism in Seattle works. We see you, Massah! 😥😥😥

    1. Um, this is not an article about race, it is a well researched piece about campaign finance reform. It’s so easy to throw lobs from the comment section that a reporter didn’t do this or that and not actually do any work yourself. Perhaps you could link to an article or a piece of your own conveying what you’d like others to know?

      And I personally think Seattle gave a lot away when it went to council districts. I previously had nine Councilmembers accountable to me, now I have three. Will districts with lower numbers of African American voters elect an African American to represent them on Council?

      District voting and democracy vouchers have been an interesting experiment, I’m not sure that they’re yielding the outcomes we thought they might.

  4. How does this years spending compare to past council races? Is it fair to say the infusion of public money is making campaigns more expensive? Is that a desirable outcome?

Leave a Reply