Tag: Election 2019

Council May Push to Regulate PACs, Which Spent As Much As $18 Per Vote in August Primary

Big spenders: Moms for Seattle’s pro-Murakami push cost $7 per vote.

1. The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission expressed skepticism yesterday about a long-shot effort by council member and state attorney general candidate Lorena Gonzalez to stem the influence of political action committees on local elections by imposing new contribution limits and disclosure requirements on such groups. Commissioners said they supported the idea of limiting corporate campaign contributions as a policy, but questioned whether it was a good idea for the city to pass a law that would be subject to immediate legal challenge.

“I support the legislation, but I am also incredibly pragmatic [and] I’m not sure I support Seattle paying for this lawsuit,’” SEEC commissioner Eileen Norton said.

Gonzalez’ legislation would prohibit companies with foreign ownership (such as Uber) from contributing to independent expenditure campaigns; cap contributions to PACs at $5,000; and require PACs to maintain detailed, publicly available records about their contributors and how they spent their money. Currently, there are no caps on how much a person, company, or organization can contribute to a PAC, and no requirement that PACs detail where their money is going.

The proponents’ legal theory rests on the hope that the Supreme Court, or an en banc panel of the entire federal Ninth Circuit District Court, will overturn previous rulings (by a D.C. circuit court and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, respectively) concluding that local governments do not have the authority to regulate PAC contributions. In the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court struck down restrictions on corporate spending on the grounds that corporations have the same rights to free “speech” as individual citizens.

“I’m not a betting woman, but I think I would be willing to bet my mortgage on [a lawsuit].”—Seattle Ethics and Election commissioner Eileen Norton.

Predictably, corporate spending ballooned across the nation, including in local races like Seattle’s mayoral and council elections. PAC spending on this year’s seven city council races has already outpaced total independent spending in the 2015 election, when all nine council seats were up for grabs; in every case, the candidate supported by corporate or (in one case) labor spending made it through to the general election.

The contribution limit would be the most significant shift, and the one most open to legal challenge. This year, for example Amazon contributed $250,000 to the Seattle Metro Chamber’s PAC, while Bellevue charter-school proponent Katherine Binder poured $25,000 into Moms for Seattle, a group that targeted liberal incumbents with Photoshopped images of playgrounds taken over by homeless encampments, graffiti, and trash. And UNITE HERE Local 8, a New York City-based union, spent $150,000 on TV ads promoting Andrew Lewis in District 7.

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.

John Bonifaz, an attorney with the group Free Speech for People who helped draft the legislation, said yesterday that Long Beach, FL is the only other US city that has passed similar regulations. So far, that law has not been subject to legal challenge. In Seattle, there is little doubt that someone will sue to stop Gonzalez’ proposal from taking effect. “I’m not a betting woman, but I think I would be willing to bet my mortgage on that one,” Norton, the SEEC commissioner, said.

2. Speaking of unfettered campaign spending, here’s a quick-and-dirty look at how much this year’s three most active (and largest) campaign PACs—Moms for Seattle, People for Seattle, and the Chamber’s Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy—spent promoting their candidates (or tearing down their opponents) on a dollars-per-vote basis. These numbers are rough (and probably a little on the low side) because these PACs chose not to itemize many of their expenditures, and because more expenditures will show up on future reports as the campaigns pay off rolling debts. (In lieu of an exact breakdown, I’ve divided the total amount of non-itemized expenditures by these groups and added it to their itemized expenditures on specific candidates, except in the case of Moms, whose record-keeping is almost completely opaque.) Despite those caveats, the numbers are a way of measuring how much these groups are willing to spend to influence your vote. Continue reading “Council May Push to Regulate PACs, Which Spent As Much As $18 Per Vote in August Primary”

PAC Spending Pays Off, Sawant’s In Trouble, and Other Lessons from Election Night

Yes, those are District 3 campaign mailers I received this year. No, that is not even all of them.

Seattle voters sent mixed messages in Tuesday’s primary election, backing many of the candidates who were supported by hundreds of thousands of dollars in independent spending by two conservative-leaning PACs while sending three incumbent city council members to the general election at the top of their respective packs, although some of those incumbents will face a tougher road than others.

Lightning rod city council member Kshama Sawant got less than a third of the vote in her reelection bid in District 3, leading second runner-up Egan Orion by just nine points (33 to 24) in a six-person race. Orion benefited from an incendiary anti-Sawant campaign funded by People for Seattle, the PAC started by her former council colleague Tim Burgess, as well as independent spending by the conservative Moms for Seattle PAC and the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, the political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

In District 5, incumbent Debora Juarez was doing a bit better than Sawant, with 42 points to challenger Ann Davison Sattler’s 28 percent in a six-way race. (Sattler, whose campaign has been promoted heavily by the online group Safe Seattle, did not get the support of any PAC.) And in District 1 (West Seattle), incumbent Lisa Herbold got 48 percent in a three-way race, besting challenger Phil Tavel, who was supported by People for Seattle, Moms, and CASE but barely topped 33 percent of the vote.

In District 2, Tammy Morales (45 percent) and Mark Solomon (25 percent) will advance to the general; in District 4, Alex Pedersen (45 percent) and Shaun Scott (19 percent) will move forward; in District 6, Dan Strauss (31 percent) and Heidi Wills (23 percent) will advance; and in District 7, the winners are Andrew Lewis (29 percent) and Jim Pugel (24 percent).

So what should we make of these results? A few early takeaways:

1) PAC money (maybe) matters; democracy vouchers (maybe) don’t.

A lot has been made of the fact that Seattle voters now have the ability to direct public funds to the candidate or candidates of their choice, through property-tax-funded system called democracy vouchers. (Yes, that’s a link to my own story). The idea was that by giving every Seattle voter $100 to spend as they want in the primary and general elections, democracy vouchers would help temper the influence of corporate money in local politics.

But in every race but two (more on those in a moment), upstart conservative PACs—with a heavy assist from legacy groups like CASE—managed to push relatively obscure candidates through to the general election by spending huge amounts of money on campaigns targeting incumbents or presumptive frontrunners like Tammy Morales. In nearly every election where People for Seattle and Moms for Seattle bombarded voters with negative ads and mailers, their candidate moved through to the general election.

Overall, PACs have reported spending more than $875,000 in the primary election alone, a number that is likely to rise as late reports come in. That number is larger than the total amount of independent expenditures on all nine primary and general city council elections in 2015.

Moms for Seattle spent about $33,000 in each of four target districts, bombarding voters with oversized mailers featuring heavily Photoshopped images on one side and the group’s endorsed candidates on the other. Given that two of their candidates (Michael George in the 7th and Pat Murakami in the 3rd) didn’t make it out of the primary, tonight was a mixed result that probably didn’t justify an outlay of more than $130,000.

People for Seattle, a PAC started by former city council member Tim Burgess, seems to have been more effective. In almost every case, the candidates People for Seattle supported were also backed by the Chamber’s Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy PAC, providing a double punch of conventional campaign materials bolstered by negative, and in many cases inaccurate or misleading, mail.

In District 1, Herbold challenger Tavel—who got 18 percent of the vote against Herbold in 2015 despite being endorsed by the Seattle Times—benefited from nearly $34,000 in spending from People for Seattle, more than half of that targeting Herbold. (CASE threw in another $102,000).

In District 2,  sleeper candidate Solomon—a civilian employee of the Seattle Police Department with no prior involvement in local elections—benefited from $23,000 from People for Seattle, including $2,700 in negative mailers targeting Morales (whose name the group’s reports consistently and inexplicably misspell “Moralas.”) CASE spent another $88,000 on Solomon.

In District 3, People for Seattle spent $12,500 against Sawant, $12,500 targeting a Sawant challenger, Zach DeWolf, and another $15,000 supporting Orion. (CASE spent another $122,000 on Orion, and $12,000 against Sawant)

In District 4, the PAC spent $19,000 backing Pedersen, who happens to be Burgess’ former council aide, and $11,000 targeting Emily Myers, a UW doctoral student who had labor backing and came in fourth. (Pedersen got a $13,000 boost from CASE).

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.

People for Seattle stayed out of Districts 5, where they endorsed Juarez, and 6 and 7, where three of their non-endorsed but recommended candidates, Heidi Wills in District 6 and Jim Pugel and Andrew Lewis in District 7, came through. CASE spent $6,900 on Juarez, $6,600 on Wills, $6,600 on Jay Fathi, $12,000 on Michael George (D7), and $6,000 on Pugel.

Other notable expenditures from legacy PACs include $148,000 from UNITE HERE 8, the New York City-based labor union, supporting Andrew Lewis.

Overall, PACs have reported spending more than $875,000 in the primary election alone, a number that is likely to rise as late reports come in. That number is larger than the total amount of independent expenditures on all nine primary and general city council elections in 2015. Continue reading “PAC Spending Pays Off, Sawant’s In Trouble, and Other Lessons from Election Night”

Half the “Moms for Seattle” Don’t Vote in Local Elections. But You Should!

via King County Elections.

Moms for Seattle—a brand-new election PAC whose biggest contributors are a Bellevue charter-school advocate and the wives of local multi-millionaires such as Forbes-lister Tom Pigott, telecom mogul John McCaw, and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz—continues to portray itself as just a small group of concerned local moms, telling KUOW last week that they decided to form a PAC after talking on the phone and realizing how frustrated they were with the current state of the city council. They “thought this was the best way for us to actually make a difference,” one of the Moms told KUOW.

So let’s take them, for a moment, at their word—Moms for Seattle, a PAC that raised more than $25,000 in a single day when it launched, is just a group of four politically inexperienced moms who wanted to make a difference in their city. (Since then, Moms for Seattle has raised more than $200,000, including about $10,000—almost 90 percent of it from men and people who live outside city limits—in the last few days.) How engaged have the four Moms been in local politics over the years, not counting their recent campaign contributions?

KUOW mentioned that most of the Moms haven’t given much money to local campaigns, which isn’t that unusual in itself—very few people, relatively speaking, do. What the radio station didn’t mention is whether they’ve shown their interest in local elections in the past by doing the bare minimum of voting in them, particularly in the council elections that would presumably be of greatest interest to people concerned about the state of the city council.

So here’s a look at the voting records of the four women who serve as the public face of the Moms for Seattle organization, obtained through the Washington Secretary of State’s voter database.

Celeste Garcia Ramburg and Betsy Losh have voted in most recent elections, including recent city council and mayoral primaries.

Before this year, Laura McMahon has voted just five times since 2004, a period that included seven primary and seven general city council elections as well as three special elections on local measures (and, of course, state and federal primary and general elections, as well as special elections, in even years). She skipped every Seattle election those except the general election in 2017. This year marks the first time she’s ever voted in a local primary election.

And finally, Jeannine Christofilis has also rarely voted, casting ballots in just six elections since 2008. Until now, she has only voted in a single local election—the general election in 2015.

The final tally: Half of the four women who say they formed Moms for Seattle because they’re concerned about local politics vote regularly, but the other two have never voted in a Seattle primary election, and have each voted in exactly one local election before this year. According to KUOW, the group believes that “the most effective way to reach [their electoral] goal would be to form a PAC and endorse the candidates they liked across the city.” The rest of us will have to reach our own electoral goals the old-fashioned way: By actually showing up and voting.

Other big-money PACs that are trying to influence this year’s council elections through independent expenditures—digital and print ad campaigns, mailers, and phone calls—include the Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s PAC, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (over $800,000 as of July 31); People for Seattle, the PAC formed by former council member Tim Burgess, which sent out mailers attacking two of his former council colleagues (more than $300,000 as of yesterday); and the labor PAC Unite Here Local 8 (about $158,000 as of July 31).

Ballots must be postmarked by today, August 6, or dropped in a ballot drop box by 8pm tonight. 

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?

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.

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.

Morning Crank Part 2: Homelessness Division Loses Another Key Player; Burgess Can’t Quit the Council

1. As I mentioned on Twitter last week, Navigation Team outreach leader Jackie St. Louis announced his resignation last month and his last day was last Friday. St. Louis did not return my calls asking about his decision to leave the city back in June, but he had recently been reassigned to a new position as “manager of unsheltered crisis response” in the Homelessness Strategy and Outreach division—a reassignment that could be interpreted as a demotion. Tiffany Washington, the erstwhile director of the homelessness division, also quit recently to become deputy director of the city’s Department of Education and Early Learning.

“So, this is where this part of my story ends. Not how I would have intended it to. Not how I would have envisioned it, but I accept that this is the way that it is supposed to be. Because a good name is worth more than any earthly reward, and integrity should never be entrusted to those who it is a stranger to.” – Former Navigation Team leader Jackie St. Louis, whose last day was last Friday

St. Louis told homeless service providers about his departure in a brief email. It read: “I wanted to take the time to thank you for your partnership over the years under what have been trying circumstances. I also want to wish you well and offer well wishes as you forge ahead with your respective missions. Though differing, they all help to try and create a better community for all those who call it home. Today will be my last day at the city.”

His departure letter to colleagues was significantly more dramatic. “To live is to wage war: war with the external forces that threaten our existence but even more so the war we wage with our own selves,” it began. “They tell us that history is told from the perspective of those who survive to recount that which has transpired. I challenge that assertion, because amongst us live and toil those who bear the scars of battles long since waged.

“It is not those who survive who tell those stories as much as it is those who still retain the desire of sharing the morbid details of things which they have most likely experienced as an observer. …

“The jury is still out on whether my ‘work’ here resulted in any significant impact for those whom it was intended. Yet, I am certain of the fact that I have been deeply impacted by your word and deeds. They have moved me toward being a better, more humble, more courageous, and resilient version of myself. …

“So, this is where this part of my story ends. Not how I would have intended it to. Not how I would have envisioned it, but I accept that this is the way that it is supposed to be. Because a good name is worth more than any earthly reward, and integrity should never be entrusted to those who it is a stranger to.”

St. Louis concluded by thanking a long list of colleagues. They did not, notably, include either Washington or Johnson.

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.

2. The Navigation Team also came up in a recent mailer from former mayor Tim Burgess’ PAC targeting city council incumbent (and Burgess’ former colleague) Lisa Herbold, who is running for reelection. In the mailer, Burgess’ group, People for Seattle, accuses Herbold of “vot[ing] to cut funding for the Navigation Teams tasked with reducing homeless camps.” This is inaccurate—as I reported at the time, although Herbold joined other council members in seeking a smaller permanent increase in the size of the team than Durkan initially requested, they ultimately gave the mayor everything she wanted, finding funds to marginally increase human service provider pay while preserve the increase in funding Durkan requested.

Burgess, who retired in 2017, has remained unusually active for a former elected official. Burgess’ PAC, which has raised more than a quarter-million dollars, has also sent out mailers accusing Kshama Sawant challenger Zach DeWolf of offering “more of the same” in an effort to boost Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce-endorsed candidate Egan Orion through the primary. This week, Burgess also sent an email to council members admonishing them directly for defying Durkan with their vote to create a dedicated fund for the soda tax, providing the language of the original bill establishing the soda tax, and suggesting four things the council “could have” done instead of creating the dedicated fund.

Burgess’ attempts to influence not only council votes, but the makeup of the council itself, have prompted some on the council to joke that he should probably just run for council again.

Afternoon Crank: Showbox Landmarked, “Freelance Bill of Rights” Booster Uses Freelance Labor

1. The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously last night to designate the downtown Showbox building a historical landmark, after dozens of speakers spoke in favor of the move using the usual combination of hyperbole (one speaker compared the two-story building on First Avenue to “the manger where Jesus was born), cheeseball sincerity (the crowd sang backup while singer Mark Taylor-Canfield went way over time with his “Save the Showbox” song), and insistence that the building, which has been heavily altered throughout its history, is an “irreplaceable” cathedral of music along the lines of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville or Carnegie Hall.

Jack McCullough, the attorney for the Showbox building owners, argued during his presentation opposing the landmark nomination that the “history” that “Save the Showbox” proponents want to preserve took place in very recent history, during the late ’90s, rather than in the preceding 60 years, when the building was heavily altered and frequently shuttered. “If we were sitting here 20 years ago would we be having this conversation?” McCullough asked rhetorically. “The building had been a pastiche of other things for the past 60 years. … Really, what we’re talking about here is what has occurred in this reconstructed building in the last 20 years.”

The vote was a foregone conclusion—one board member, Russell Comey, showed up with a poem he’d written that began “Showbox forever” and bowed to the applauding audience after the vote—but the future of the Showbox building is not.

Although many of the (unanimously pro-landmarking) public commenters made a point to mention Duke Ellington’s stint there during the segregated 1940s (according to the Seattle Daily Times archives, Ellington played at several other clubs in town during that decade, including the Civic Ice Arena and the Palomar), many of the speakers also inadvertently proved McCullough’s point, by name-dropping bands that played there during the grunge era, like Soundgarden and Nirvana. “That thing you’re feeling is a combination of hopes and dreams, milestones and history,” one commenter told the landmark board. “It’s impossible to replicate these kinds of spaces.”

The vote was a foregone conclusion—one board member, Russell Comey, showed up with a poem he’d written that began “Showbox forever” and bowed to the applauding audience after the vote—but the future of the Showbox building is not. As I reported  last month, the owners of the building (who originally planned to build apartments on the property, which the city recently rezoned for that explicit purpose) have terminated Showbox operator AEG Presents’  lease when it ends at the beginning of 2024,  and recently won a major victory in their lawsuit challenging legislation that put the Showbox building inside the Pike Place Market Historical District, severely restricting its future use. Landmarking places controls on the building, but not on its use; a landmarked building can still be torn down or used for a different purpose. To “Save the Showbox,” at this point, will likely require a group to raise tens of millions of dollars to purchase the land from its owner, who has valued the property at around $40 million. Historic Seattle, which has expressed an interest in buying the property, has not yet indicated how or whether it plans to raise that kind of money.

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.

2. Shaun Scott, a Democratic Socialists of America member running for city council in District 4 (Northeast Seattle), has proposed a “freelancers’ bill of rights” that would guarantee  new rights to independent contractors and gig workers, including a written employment contract, pay within 30 days, portable benefits, and a ban on non-compete clauses guaranteeing that they won’t work for a competitor within the same market. “Gig economy workers deserve the same rights as unionized employees and laborers in traditional fields,” Scott said in the announcement.  In addition to the issues that would be addressed by the “bill of rights,” freelancers also pay both employer and employee taxes, usually pay for health care out-of-pocket, and don’t have access to unemployment benefits or L&I compensation. (Full disclosure: As a freelancer, I know all of this from experience.)

It was somewhat surprising, then, to learn that instead of hiring his campaign staffers on a permanent basis and offering them all those benefits, Scott himself is using independent contractors for much of his campaign work. Scott says his staff are all paid “at least $16 an hour” and are currently “in the middle of unionizing, having just submitted their letter of recognition asking me to recognize their bargaining unit in affiliation with the Campaign Workers Guild.”

It was somewhat surprising, then, to learn that instead of hiring his campaign staffers on a permanent basis , Scott himself is using independent contractors for much of his campaign work. Scott says his staff are all paid “at least $16 an hour” and are currently “in the middle of unionizing, having just submitted their letter of recognition asking me to recognize their bargaining unit in affiliation with the Campaign Workers Guild.” (The election is on August 6.)

Scott says that all his campaign staffers are paid “at least $16 an hour,” that the two full-time campaign workers have vacation benefits, and that “everyone is eligible for transit and data reimbursements that will hopefully become even more robust after demands are presented and we agree on a contract.” Scott’s campaign finance reports only show one expenditure on transit (a $10 Sound Transit light-rail ticket), and none for data reimbursement or cell phone costs. They do include more than $2,200 spent on Lyft.

“Campaign work can be just as grueling and uncertain as freelance work in the arts, tech, and journalism,” Scott says. “If progressive campaigns can’t support their own workers, they will be in no position to truly advocate for the broader labor community.”

Is Seattle’s Experiment in Public Campaign Finance Working?

This story, which I reported several months ago, just appeared in the July 2019 print edition of Seattle magazine. Many of the numbers have changed; for example, 35 candidates have now qualified for and are receiving democracy vouchers, and of those, 27 have been released from either total spending limits or total contribution limits or both, a process I covered in more detail here. Meanwhile, as I predicted in my piece, independent spending—the primary impediment to the idealistic goals of the democracy voucher program—continues to balloon, outpacing both individual cash donations and democracy vouchers in many races. I’ve lightly edited this version of the story to reflect some of the changes since the story went to print; the version that ran in the magazine is available on Seattle magazine’s website.

This year’s Seattle City Council races have produced a bumper crop of candidates—55 people running for seven council seats. Of those, more than 40 have signed up to participate in the city’s audacious experiment in campaign funding: democracy vouchers, a unique form of public campaign financing in which voters determine who gets public funds.

The goals of the program are twofold: to increase the number and diversity of candidates running in local races; and to make it possible for more ordinary residents, including noncitizens and people who are not registered to vote, to donate directly to candidates even if they lack the personal funds to do so.

Two elections in since the program began in 2017, it’s clear that more candidates are running. In 2015, the first year that most council positions were elected by district (there are seven district and two at-large council seats), the same seven seats drew 41 candidates. And more people than ever before are also contributing to local races. Whether that participation translates into a different kind of city council—one that includes, for example, renters and people without connections to deep-pocketed donors—remains an open question.

First, some history. Four years ago, in an election that was closely watched by voting-reform advocates across the country, Seattle voters passed Initiative 122, which radically changed how city elections are conducted and financed. Although the initiative was sweeping—limiting contributions from city contractors, prohibiting lobbying by former elected officials and lowering contribution limits—the most dramatic change was the creation of an unprecedented financing system that sets aside public money for Seattle residents to spend on candidates for city offices.

Financed through a $30 million, 10-year property tax, the experimental Democracy Voucher Program allocates four “vouchers” worth a total of $100 to every Seattle resident, who can earmark the vouchers to the qualifying candidate or candidates of their choice. Nominees qualify for the program by collecting a specified number of signatures and contributions. (See sidebar.) Once they qualify, candidates also must abide by contribution and spending limits and participate in at least three public forums. The program is voluntary; this year, several candidates, including District 3 (central Seattle) incumbent and socialist Kshama Sawant, are not participating, freeing them from the program’s spending and contribution caps.

In 2015—before the Democracy Voucher Program was in place—only 1.3 percent of Seattle residents donated to local campaigns, most of them residents of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, according to an analysis that year by Sightline Institute, which drafted I-122. In 2017, the first year of the program, that number nearly tripled, to 3.4 percent.

“If your wallet is empty, you’re still able to participate in this part of the political process,” says Liz Dupee, who directs the Washington Democracy Hub at the Win/Win Network, a progressive advocacy group. Last year, a Win/Win analysis found that democracy vouchers had “diversified the pool of donors” to include more young people, people of color and residents of less affluent neighborhoods.

District 2 City Council candidate Tammy Morales, who narrowly lost to incumbent Bruce Harrell in her first run for the southeast Seattle seat in 2015, says democracy vouchers have been a game changer for her. “The last time I ran, I would knock on somebody’s door who might feel very compelled by my message and the things I was hoping to do, but I wasn’t about to ask them for a contribution because they couldn’t afford it, and now I can ask them for their vouchers,” Morales says. “They’re providing a way for people who don’t have a lot of resources to participate.”

Other studies back this up. A city-commissioned report by BerkConsulting found that 88 percent of people who used vouchers in 2017 had never contributed to a local campaign before.

So far, vouchers haven’t made campaigns cheaper. In 2017—the first year that City Council candidates could participate in the voucher program—Position 8 candidates Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda spent a combined total of $818,000, making the race one of the most expensive council races in recent Seattle history. Both Grant and Mosqueda participated in the Democracy Voucher Program, but the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (which has the discretion to do so) raised the cap on individual contributions from $250 to $500 and lifted the total spending limit for both candidates after Mosqueda’s fundraising repeatedly blew past Grant’s.

In 2017, when just two council seats were on the ballot, spending for City Council campaigns increased 60 percent over 2015, when all nine seats were up for election.

If one of the goals of the program is to make campaigns less expensive, it may seem counterintuitive to raise the caps. But Ethics and Elections Commission executive director Wayne Barnett argues that it’s important for campaigns to have the ability to combat well-funded outside groups—in other words, political action committees (PACs), which are not subject to contribution or spending limits. “If you’re not going to give a candidate an opportunity to remain competitive when outside forces start spending heavily on behalf of their opponent, I don’t think candidates are likely to remain in the [Democracy Voucher] program.”

Morales, who announced her candidacy in January, says the spending caps can make it hard to pay campaign workers a living wage while also budgeting for expenses like ads and campaign mail. And Mosqueda notes that the cap on democracy vouchers made it impossible for people who wanted to contribute to her campaign to do so after she hit the $300,000 maximum for voucher contributions. “We need to either say that we need to stay within these caps or get rid of them,” Mosqueda says. “There were a lot of people [last year] who were very frustrated that they couldn’t use their democracy vouchers.” Two-thirds of Mosqueda’s campaign funding in 2017 came from democracy vouchers.

It’s also unclear whether democracy vouchers are accomplishing their second goal: producing a larger, higher-quality and more diverse field of local candidates. Much has been made of the sheer number of people running for the City Council this year. But most of them are white and wealthier than average; according to financial disclosure statements (which, thanks to I-122, now include each candidate’s net wealth), 15 of this year’s candidates have a net worth of over $1 million, and only a handful are people of color.

Candidates who want to participate in the voucher program aren’t guaranteed funding. Before they can receive any vouchers, they have to collect a minimum number of signatures (400 in citywide races; 150 for each district council seat) and get donations of at least $10 from an equal number of registered voters.

In 2017, when the two citywide seats were on the ballot, the candidates were required to get signatures and donations from the same 400 people, a requirement that 2017 candidate Hisam Goueli says forced him to spend most of his time chasing contributions and signatures rather than meeting with voters. “We believed in the Democracy Voucher Program; we were just broken by it,” Goueli says. “We were devastated to find out the program we thought would be the thing that helped us get our message out would be the hamstring to the campaign.” The rule has since been changed. Voucher candidates still have to get a minimum number of signatures and contributions, but the signatures and contributions can now come from different people.

On the plus side, Alex Pedersen, a candidate in northeast Seattle’s District 4, says the signature requirement (and the limitations imposed by the voucher program itself) gives a leg up to candidates who are willing to engage with voters face-to-face. “Even those [candidates] accustomed to using social media are now required to put on their walking shoes and knock on doors, which I think will help to build greater trust between the people and their elected officials and make politics more fun and engaging,” Pedersen says.

Candidates who have declined to participate in the Democracy Voucher Program give various reasons for their decision. At her January kickoff for reelection, council member Sawant, the District 3 incumbent, said that she expected to have “probably a million [dollars] thrown at this race” by “corporate PACs and big business lobbyists and big developers,” and would need to raise and spend more money than the voucher program would allow.

Ari Hoffman, who’s running in District 2, opposes the voucher program for philosophical reasons. “I made the decision at the beginning of the campaign not to take democracy vouchers, because I do not believe that taxpayer money should be used to finance political campaigns,” Hoffman says. “My campaign is about fiscal accountability in our local governments, and I would be a hypocrite if I took taxpayer money to fund it.”

And Naveed Jamali, who’s running in District 7 (downtown, Magnolia and Queen Anne), says he prefers to focus on policy rather than “chasing vouchers”; when he knocks on people’s doors, he says, “the first question is about ‘What issues are important to you?’ It’s not about making the sale.”

Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program is still very new, and proponents say they’re well aware of its shortcomings and that it wouldn’t be surprising if the program—assuming it continues—receives some fine-tuning in the future. But Margaret Morales, a researcher with Sightline, notes that no amount of tinkering can fix what many reform advocates consider the most troubling trend in recent years: the growing impact of independent spending, which totaled more than $1 million in 2017. To change that, Morales and other voucher proponents note, will require overturning the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which opened the floodgates for unlimited spending by political action committees. In the meantime, Morales says, candidates “just have to do the best they can regardless of independent expenditures.”

 

Democracy Vouchers 101 

Candidates for Seattle offices who file all the required paperwork can choose to participate in the Democracy Voucher Program.To be eligible for vouchers*, candidates for the City Council’s district positions must:

• Collect signatures from 150 Seattle residents (including from at least 75 in their district)
• Collect at least $10 from 150 residents (including from at least 75 in their district; the financial contributions and signatures do not need to come from the same people).

• Limit their campaign valuation—the total amount of money raised or spent—to $75,000 in the primary election and $75,000 in the general election.

Additionally, candidates accepting democracy vouchers must:

• Adhere to an individual contribution cap of $250 (the cap for candidates not accepting democracy vouchers is $500).

• Not collect any more vouchers once they have reached their total campaign valuation cap.

Candidates—both those who accept vouchers and those who choose not to—can appeal to the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission to have the caps on fundraising and expenditures raised.

*The required number of signature, dollar amounts, and spending and contribution caps vary depending on whether a candidate is running for a district council seat, an at-large council seat or another elected city office. 

Big Business, Labor, and Activist Money Set to Dwarf Individual Spending on Council Campaigns

With ballots landing in mailboxes any day now, independent campaigns representing business, labor, and, vaguely, “moms,” are spending thousands of dollars—sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars—on ad campaigns, mailings, canvassing, and other efforts to influence your vote in the August 6 primary election. The money spent by outside groups threatens to dwarf spending by the campaigns themselves, particularly in District 7 (downtown, Magnolia, and Queen Anne), where labor has spent nearly half a million dollars on a single candidate.

As I reported for Seattle magazine (in a story that went to print long before the latest fundraising totals started rolling in), despite the advent of direct public campaign financing through democracy vouchers, “no amount of tinkering can fix what many reform advocates consider the most troubling trend in recent years: the growing impact of independent spending.”

Here’s a breakdown of the latest independent-money financing, where it’s coming from, and how it’s being spent:

• Moms for Seattle, a new PAC that first announced its existence on Speak Out Seattle’s Facebook page earlier this week, has raised more than $150,000 in just over a month and spent $115,000 of that on consulting and Facebook ads for four council candidates: Real estate consultant Michael George in District 1; neighborhood activist Pat Murakami in District 3 (where Kshama Sawant is the incumbent); former Tim Burgess aide and erstwhile newsletter publisher Alex Pedersen in District 4; and former council member-turned-golf advocate Heidi Wills in District 6. All four candidates also received top ratings from Speak Out Seattle.

The money spent by outside groups threatens to dwarf spending by the campaigns themselves, particularly in District 7 (downtown, Magnolia, and Queen Anne), where labor has spent nearly half a million dollars on a single candidate.

The top donors to the group include Bellevue charter school proponent Katherine Binder ($25,000); Jeannine Navone, wife of hedge-fund manager Dino Christofilis Diane Langstraat, wife of investment manager Brian Langstraat; and numerous other women who list their occupation as “stay-at-home mom” or “homemaker.” Their chief consultant is Western Consultants, LLC, which has a PO box as its local address and has never played in local campaigns before Moms for Seattle started throwing money their way ($69,000 so far) this year.

The group’s other consultant, Seattle-based Clear Path Partners, has not worked directly on local campaigns until this year; however, its founders have. Clear Path’s partners include Joe Quintaña, who started a business-oriented PAC called Forward Seattle a dozen years ago; former Strategies 360 VP John Engbar; and former King County Realtors’ lobbyist Randy Bannecker.

I’ve reached out to Laura McMahon, the woman who announced the group’s creation on Facebook, as well as Speak Out Seattle to find out more about the group and whether they’re connected to SOS, and will update this post if I hear back.

UPDATE: McMahon responded to my message asking about the group (I’ve edited out the part of her response that appeared to be responding to social media speculation about the group by people other than me): “We are moms who have never before been involved in politics, but are deeply disturbed by what is happening to our city. We seek to engage other moms, friends and concerned citizens in funding independent campaigns to elect city councilmembers with the common sense to balance caring for the homeless, addicted and mentally ill with keeping Seattle citizens safe in public areas and green spaces – something the current council seems incapable of doing. … The candidates we are endorsing are experienced leaders who want to make positive change for Seattle and are capable of achieving the balance I describe above. No one wants the status quo as it is NOT working. We have no further comment at this time.”

• People for Seattle, the PAC started by former city council member and mayor Tim Burgess, has raised a quarter-million dollars and spent about $165,000 of that so far—the overwhelming majority of it ($100,000) on direct mail by a Massachusetts-based firm called Daylight Communications. (Another $40,000, as I previously reported, went toward messaging research by the local polling firm EMC Research.) PFC’s candidates include Phil Tavel in District 1, Mark Solomon in District 2, former Capitol Hill Chamber director Egan Orion in District 3, ex-Burgess aide  Pedersen in District 4, and council incumbent Debora Juarez in District 5.

The state Public Disclosure Commission doesn’t break down the $100,000 the group is spending on direct mail by candidate, but the city’s ethics and elections commission lists, so far, negative mailings targeting Herbold, Sawant, and (in an unusual move) District 3 Sawant challenger Zachary DeWolf as well as mailings in favor of Orion and Tavel.

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• I covered spending by the Chamber-sponsored Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) here; since then, CASE has spent another $87,000 on mailings and Facebook ads on behalf of Tavel, Solomon, Orion, Pedersen, Juarez, Wills, Fathi, George, and former police chief and District 7 candidate Jim Pugel, plus overhead expenses to the Chamber.

The state Public Disclosure Commission doesn’t break down the $100,000 former council member Tim Burgess’ People for Seattle PAC is spending, but the city’s ethics and elections commission lists, so far, negative mailings targeting Herbold, Sawant, and (in an unusual move) District 3 Sawant challenger Zachary DeWolf.

• Not to be outdone, perhaps, by business spending, UNITE HERE Local 8, the hotel workers’ union, is spending more than $425,000  $150,000 on cable TV and online ads buys on behalf of former Nick Licata campaign manager Andrew Lewis, who’s running for District 7 with strong union support. (Editor’s note: After this posted, Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission director Wayne Barnett contacted me to say the “jaw-dropping” number on the SEEC’s website was the result of a “bug” that had been fixed, and that the actual expenditure was closer to $150,000. This update reflects the SEEC’s corrected information.)

The enormous union push to get Lewis through the primary, which according to Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission reports is being funded through the group’s national arm in New York City, appears to be the only big spend on cable TV in the council primary so far.

• The Service Employees International Union 775, which represents health-care workers, has written checks to two marketing firms (one in Seattle and one in Beaverton, OR) for a digital campaign supporting District 6 candidate Jay Fathi, a physician who has also been endorsed by several other unions as well as the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, the Seattle Metro Chamber’s political arm. They’ve also paid Fuse Washington for digital ads for council incumbent Lisa Herbold (D-1, $3,500) and District 2 candidate Tammy Morales ($1,500).

• Finally, the group District 1 Neighbors for Small Business—funded by a few relatively small donations from the owners of West Seattle businesses like the West Seattle Bowl, Menashe Jewelry, and Nucor Steel—has spent just over $400 on stickers for Tavel.

 

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.
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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.

Who Said It? A Quiz from Last Night’s GOP-Sponsored Homelessness Forum

In a bit of kismet (or misfortune?) so perfect it almost seemed planned, the 43rd District Democrats held their primary-election endorsement meeting last night at Kane Hall on the UW campus—right next to a forum sponsored by the 36th District Republicans titled “HOMELESS & ADDICTED IN SEATTLE.” (Two Democrats I talked to in the foyer outside both events referred to the panel as “the hate group meeting” and “the Klan rally,” respectively).

The 43rd’s endorsements were uneventful (no candidate reached the 60% threshold for endorsement in Districts 3, 4, 6, or 7—the four districts that partially overlap with the 43rd), so I spent my night popping back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans, whose security guards eventually stopped checking my backpack every time I returned.

The panel brought together two AM radio hosts, a police union leader and SWAT team offcer, the founder of Safe Seattle, a former Republican state legislator who now leads the Family Policy Institute of Washington, the program manager for Christian shelter provider Union Gospel Mission, and several others, to spend three hours agreeing at length about what causes homelessness and how to fix it. (In the panel’s apparently unanimous view, addiction, specifically heroin addiction, is the main root cause of homelessness, and the fix consists of tough-love “solutions” like forced treatment and making it “more uncomfortable to stay addicted,” as one panelist put it.)

It would have been a perfect echo chamber, if not for the presence of a few hecklers  (quickly ejected), plus a handful of folks who stuck around to ask questions that challenged the unanimous tough-love narrative of the panel (quickly shouted down). I find echo chambers exhausting (witness, on the other end of the spectrum, my extreme reluctance to cover council member Kshama Sawant’s endless “PACK CITY HALL” rallies), so instead, I’ve gathered a few quotes from last night’s panel into a little quiz.

See if you can guess which speaker from this list made each of the following statements (answers below the jump).

1. “You can’t have a relationship [with a homeless client] when you’re a social worker. My ex-wife is a social worker…. There’s no relationship.”

2. “Take the ties off of the hands of our brave men and women who are officers and allow them to do their jobs.”

3. “[There are t]hose who are advocating for giving more and more and more money and more and more services to people that aren’t taking any responsibility, and that is called enabling.”

4. “I don’t like doing my job anymore.”

5. “That question is a setup! I’m not going to tell him!”

6. “If you want to have a conversation with a bunch of experts, you can organize your own panel.”

7. “There is no homelessness in South Korea, in Japan, because they have a culture of family, of focusing on virtue. … If you have a culture that’s broken… you have evil, you have drugs, you have no accountability.”

8. “I’ve worked with hundreds of homeless people over 15 years. I have dozens of friends who have been homeless. The majority of those dozens of friends are not addicts.”

9. “Third and Pike, the downtown market, is the largest criminal organization for shoplifting in this country.”

10. “I think we have to stop calling it homelessness. I think we have to start addressing it as addiction.”

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Continue reading “Who Said It? A Quiz from Last Night’s GOP-Sponsored Homelessness Forum”