Election Crank: Facebook Rules Catch Up With Moms For Seattle; Burgess’ Left-Baiting Rhetoric as Subtle as a Hammer and Sickle

1. It’s the final week before ballots are due for the August 6 primary election,  so here’s a quick roundup of election money news, starting with the latest on the new PAC Moms for Seattle, which is funded largely by self-identified “homemakers” and retired women who happen to be married to rich and powerful men like telecom mogul John McCaw, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, and tech entrepreneur Tom Pigott, a member of one of the richest families in the country. (Robert Getch did a bunch of digging on Moms’ backers over the weekend and posted his findings on Twitter.)

For weeks, the group had been posting political ads on Facebook promoting their preferred candidates, including Phil Tavel in District 1, Pat Murakami in District 3, Alex Pedersen in District 4, and Heidi Wills in District 6. As of Monday, however, their ads appeared to have vanished. Facebook officially bans political advertising in Washington State, but this ban is still fairly theoretical—the ads, which are transparently political, ran for weeks despite efforts by advocates to have them taken down. According to one person who reported the ads, Facebook removed the ad because it violated their ad policies. (Screen shot here). I reached out to Moms for Seattle to find out whether all of their ads have been removed for violating Facebook’s ban on political advertising and will update this post if I hear back.

2. NEW: Moms for Seattle’s first primary-election mailer landed in mailboxes across Seattle Monday. Featuring a photo of an empty swing set against a graffiti-covered wall in a playground occupied only by a large pile of trash, bikes, and shopping parts and a tent, the mailer reads, “This isn’t how people should be living or where children should be playing… All of Seattle’s residents deserve better.” The only problem: The image isn’t real. Moms for Seattle apparently couldn’t find an actual playground overrun by tents, so they had to manufacture one. Here’s the mailer, along with the stock photos Moms for Seattle used to make Seattle look like a place where kids can no longer play in parks because of all the homeless people squatting there:

Hey, if you have to fabricate a scene to illustrate your point that Seattle Is Dying™, maybe it isn’t?

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3. People for Seattle, the “pragmatic, progressive” PAC created by former city council member Tim Burgess, is attempting to prop up Burgess’ former aide, Alex Pedersen, with a misleading mailer saying that Pedersen’s labor-backed opponent, Emily Myers, is the same as socialist city council member Kshama Sawant. (The messaging is as subtle as a hammer and sickle: A photo of Myers, and one of Sawant, connected by an “equals” sign. An earlier mailer, describing Sawant challenger Zachary DeWolf in similar terms, had a different equation: {Dewolf + Sawant = More of the Same City Council Dysfunction.”)

“If you like extremist Kshama Sawant, then you’ll love Emily Myers,” the flyer blares, over the same image of tents that has been used in mailers smearing District 1 incumbent Lisa Herbold (like Sawant, a former Burgess colleague) and DeWolf. The mailer’s flip side calls Myers “too extreme for Seattle” and (in case you didn’t get the message) calls a vote against Myers a vote against “city council extremism.”

Myers, a grad student at the University of Washington who is backed by big labor contributions, is hardly an “extremist” (she advocates for liberalizing the city’s exclusionary zoning laws, rent stabilization, and “dignified shelter”), but it’s clear that Burgess and his financial backers (who include many of the same wealthy families backing Moms) see her as more of a threat than the actual Sawant-affiliated socialist, Shaun Scott, who is running for the same seat.

4. Myers supporters may be preparing to fight back, though—on Monday, the Service Employees International Union Political Education and Action Fund—the national political arm of the powerful health care workers’ union—transferred $350,000 into the account of the local SEIU campaign fund. A spokesman for SEIU wouldn’t say how the group plans to spend the money, but getting Myers through the primary is one of their 2019 priorities—so far this year, they’ve made modest spends on Myers, Tammy Morales (D2) Herbold, DeWolf, Jay Fathi (D6), and have contributed $10,000 each to two new progressive PACs, Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (whose biggest financial backer is billionaire think tank founder Nick Hanauer) and Working People for an Affordable Seattle, whose funding comes, so far, from SEIU and UFCW 21, the grocery workers’ union.

“If you like extremist Kshama Sawant, then you’ll love Emily Myers,” the flyer blares, over the same image of tents that has been used in mailers smearing District 1 incumbent Lisa Herbold (like Sawant, a former Burgess colleague) and DeWolf.

5. Back to Burgess for a moment. His PAC didn’t stop at targeting his former colleague Herbold just once. They sent out a second mailing—complete with an ominous black-and-white photo with Herbold’s nose ring front and center—claiming that not only did Herbold “drea[m] up the job-killing head tax” (which would—though the mailer doesn’t mention this—have only targeted very large businesses), she “blamed the public” for failing to understand what it would do. “Vote “No” On Lisa Herbold” the mailer urges. In reality, the head tax passed unanimously, with full buy-in from Mayor Jenny Durkan, before a massive campaign funded by large businesses like Amazon, Starbucks and Vulcan turned public opinion against the council. Ultimately, Herbold voted for the repeal, making this latest mailing from Burgess’ group an especially dishonest distortion of council history.

The heightened rhetoric is being echoed inside Herbold’s district. Yesterday, this graffiti showed up on Delridge Way SW, just south of the West Seattle Bridge. It’s ironic  that an ex-council member who frequently bemoans the lack of “civility” in Seattle politics may be largely responsible for one of the nastiest local campaign seasons in memory.

5 thoughts on “Election Crank: Facebook Rules Catch Up With Moms For Seattle; Burgess’ Left-Baiting Rhetoric as Subtle as a Hammer and Sickle”

  1. Thank you for not calling Burgess “former Mayor Tim Burgess” as everyone else is doing. He wasn’t elected and he held office for about 2 months as a placeholder for Durkan.

  2. FWIW: it’s not just Facebook. When I visit thestranger website right now – I get blasted -on all pages with what appears to be a Google ad buy from the Heidi Wills campaign. (yes, I am D6)

    Ironically, Bob Ferguson is listed as one of the endorsements in some of the ads. I’m very confused why candidates + campaigns would knowingly act to (misuse?) BigTech.ads in a way that they *should* know is ‘banned’ by the providers due to non-compliance problems.

    Having a PAC try to sneak social media ads in is one thing – but campaigns directly making ad buys that are non-compliant with state law? Curious situation.

  3. “…before a massive campaign funded by large businesses like Amazon, Starbucks and Vulcan turned public opinion against the council. Ultimately, Herbold voted for the repeal,…”

    Amazon, Starbucks, and Vulcan did not turn public opinion against the council: Public opinion was already clearly and strongly against the head tax in the first place, and the head tax was just one of multitudes of examples of the Council purposely, completely, and blatantly ignoring existing public opinion and just shoving something down our throats anyways. Herbold ultimately voted for the repeal, not because the head tax was the wrong thing to do in the first place, but ONLY due to the ensuing and continual public pressure, and only then finally seeing the writing on the wall that she should have seen in the first place if she had simply listened to the people that she is supposed to represent.

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