Campaign Crank: Complaints and Accusations Fly in Final Week Before Election

Image via Phil Tavel PDC complaint

1. Egan Orion, the former Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce director who’s challenging District 3 City Council incumbent Kshama Sawant, has filed amended reports indicating that the campaign retroactively paid Uncle Ike’s pot shop owner Ian Eisenberg $500 a month for the use of a former Shell station owned by Eisenberg as its headquarters.

Under state and Seattle law, expenses like rent have to be reported in the same month in which they’re incurred, and the campaign treasurer has to update the campaign’s books to reflect expenditures within five days. After I broke the news that the campaign had not reported its use of the space as an expenditure, the campaign filed several amendments to its expenditure report, including two changes filed late last night.

The first amendment filed yesterday retroactively reported debts of $500 in rent for September and October—an amount that appears to be significantly below the average market rent for the area where the office is located, at 21st and Union in the Central District. (Olga Laskin, Orion’s campaign manager, said the office includes 350 square feet of “usable” space and was in poor condition when the campaign arrived. It has since been upgraded and painted with a large street-facing sign for the campaign.) The second change, filed as part of a report covering a longer time period 18 seconds later, reports the same $1000 as having been paid on October 28, along with another $500, presumably for November’s rent. One person has already filed a complaint at the state Public Disclosure Commission about the initial lack of reporting, which the campaign has called an oversight.

Eisenberg, who initially refused to comment on whether or how much he was charging the Orion campaign to use the space, has since gone on a Facebook rampage aimed at me and this website, calling me “fake news” for reporting factually (via Twitter) on the campaign’s use of the space he owns. (In his initial refusal to comment, Eisenberg politely told me that the rent he charges on the space was none of my business.) Failing to report an expenditure in a timely fashion, or undervaluing the office space, would amount to a campaign finance violation and could result in a fine. The Orion campaign has already paid one fine of $1,000 after the Public Disclosure Commission determined that the campaign had failed to report who paid for an ad it ran on the cover of the biweekly Stranger newspaper, as required under state campaign finance law.

The Orion campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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2. Speaking of Eisenberg, the Central District and Capitol Hill business owner is one of the top five funders of a group called “District 1 Neighbors for Small Business,” which recently sent out a mailer that featured a list of “neighborhood mom & pop small local businesses” (including Uncle Ike’s) who are supporting Phil Tavel over incumbent council member Lisa Herbold. Eisenberg’s name appears on that list, with about 20 other people who either are not small business owners or who do not own businesses in the district. Eisenberg has an outlet called Ike’s Place in White Center, just outside Seattle city limits.

Also on Tavel’s list of small local businesses: Roger Valdez, a lobbyist for developers who does not live in the district; one of the owners of Smarty Pants and Hudson, two restaurants in council District 2; several partners at downtown Seattle law firms; Ryan Reese, one of the employee-owners of Pike Place Fish Market in downtown Seattle; and seven people who list their occupation as “retired.”

Besides Eisenberg, the top contributors to the District 1 Neighbors PAC are developer Dan Duffus; NUCOR PAC (the political arm of the local steel company); Seattle Hospitality for Progress (the political arm of the Seattle Hotel Association and the Seattle Restaurant Alliance); and Donna and Ken Olsen, who are retired). The top three contributors to the PAC contributors are Vulcan, the Washington Hospitality Association, and Hyatt hotels.

3. Tavel, for his part, filed a complaint at the state Public Disclosure Commission alleging that a mailing from Herbold focusing on his business record constitutes “libel” and is “fraudulent.” The mailer claims that Tavel had “12 businesses shut down by the state of Washington,” and refers to Tavel’s “failed businesses, stiffed contractor, unpaid fines, bounced check and tax liens.” The complaint says that most of the 12 businesses Tavel was involved in were “administratively dissolved” for various reasons, not “shut down” by the state, says the bounced check had to do with a rent dispute that Tavel wasn’t directly involved in, and gives various reasons for the multiple liens on his businesses and his unpaid court fines, including the fact that he amassed” massive medical bills and huge unexpected costs” when his wife came down with a debilitating disease four years ago.

“Her intent is clear in her mailer to cause people to not have faith in me as a candidate for council and injure me in my attempt to run for this position,” Tavel wrote. These statements were clearly made with a willful disregard for my rights.

The District 1 race has been unexpectedly ugly. Earlier this month, right-wing talk show host Dori Monson (of KIRO 97.3), along with former District 2 candidate Ari Hoffman, encouraged people to buy derelict RVs and park them in front of council members’ houses to protest the presence of homeless people living in RVs in Seattle. When a pregnant young woman coincidentally parked a trailer in front of Herbold’s house (a not-unusual occurrence in the neighborhood where Herbold lives), Monson urged people to show up and “protest” at the council member’s home, and celebrated online and on the air as people broke into the trailer and vandalized it with huge spray-painted signs saying “DORI FOR PRESIDENT.” Monson sent a reporter, Carolyn Ossorio, who filmed herself tromping through the RV without permission and was later fired. Monson—who offered the woman and three members of her family a hundred-dollar bill to split between them as payment for the destruction of the trailer—is still on the air.

4. Social media gadfly and regular Sound Transit public commenter Joe Kunzler has filed his own complaint against council member Sally Bagshaw, alleging that her outburst last week in defense of her legislative aide, Dan Strauss, who’s running for city council in District 4, constitutes a violation of a state law barring public officials from using their offices to campaign. In the council’s weekly briefings meeting this past Monday, Bagshaw expressed support for her colleague Lorena Gonzalez’ legislation that would impose contribution limits on political action committees funded by huge companies like Amazon, which have spent millions supporting a slate of business-friendly candidates in this year’s council elections.

“It is so friggin’ unfair with those who are running for office this time and who have pledged to use the democracy vouchers. If I can be so bold to say that Dan Strauss in my office has been playing by every rule. He truly is the Boy Scout who just plays everything straight and he’s raised a goodly amount of money,” Bagshaw said. Strauss, she continued, “has had $800,000 dropped against him in the last two weeks. … I just find that as unreasonable and unfair as any situation that I’ve seen and that’s happening across the board with all of our colleagues. I’m frustrated to the max.”

Strauss is running for District 6; his opponent is former council member Heidi Wills. The latest campaign disclosure filings from the largest pro-business PACs, which include the Amazon-backed Seattle Metro Chamber’s CASE PAC and former council member Tim Burgess’ People for Seattle—show a total of just over $525,000 spent on pro-Wills or anti-Strauss materials and ads between October 15 and October 28.

One thought on “Campaign Crank: Complaints and Accusations Fly in Final Week Before Election”

  1. Sincere thanks for the press coverage this fine morning of my work. I wish you had reached out for a quote.

    Had you please reached out to me for a quote – and I have two more complaints before the SEEC; I would have said if I am going to criticize Alex Tsimerman for campaigning in public meetings I have to do it to Sally Bagshaw. Regardless of how that political science analogy makes me nauseous as a human being and a son and a fan of Seattle we do live in age of Trump, an age of divisiveness and an age of Tsimerman – with apologies to Jessyn Farrell of course.

    Also I support at the very least a legislative means for these PACs to get a stern request in writing from candidates to withdraw assistance. These PACs are getting in the way of a strong, courageous female candidate in Heidi Wills – – fighting off two white males in Dan Strauss and Tim Eyman with help from new friends (me!) and old friends alike. If Heidi were to call Amazon HQ and tell them to knock it off; two teenage kids and a husband would see a mother and wife in handcuffs and in jail instead of the 100 top repeat offenders of Seattle.

    That’s not OK and we need positive campaigns to have legal tools so as to be able to corral these well intentioned PACs to become responsible community influencers and neither playing themselves nor spreading malicious mistruths about our well-intentioned neighbors courageously putting themselves in the public eye to run for office. You see, we on Team Heidi Wills aren’t Danny Strauss mailing trashy jocular mailers and possibly abusing endorsers’ trust.

    That said, the Heidi Wills campaign has a positive agenda. From housing the homeless to standing up to Tim Eyman to continuing the environmental work Heidi Wills has done her entire life to building new, innovative cycling infrastructure. Heidi Wills is Heidi Wills, it’s time for the men to be men and let Heidi be Heidi.

    I know that’s a full soup and toasted cheese sandwich with chips lunch. But there you go. Logorrhea is my deal.

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