Tag: campaign finance

Morning Crank: Women Should Get Credit for the Work We Do

1. Yesterday, in response to a Seattle Times endorsement that cited former Tenants Union director Jon Grant’s superior “experience,” “reasonable[ness], and “objectiv[ity], more than 100 women—including elected officials, women’s rights advocates and both of Seattle’s mayoral candidates, Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan—signed on to an “open letter to the people of Seattle” denouncing the Times’ dog-whistling dismissal of Mosqueda’s achievements.

“Women should get credit for the work we do, and for our hard-won experience,” the letter reads. “We must stop making excuses or standing by while others overstate their resumes at the expense of women whose qualifications, experience, and track record are indisputable. The Seattle Times Editorial Board lauds the ‘experience’ of Teresa’s opponent, yet Teresa spent years helping craft the minimum wage and sick leave policy and leading the state-wide initiative that her opponent was hired for a period to work on.”

As I noted in my primary election endorsement of Mosqueda, the longtime advocate for women, people of color, and workers has “a mile-long resume and an incredible track record fighting successfully for equitable health care, fair wages, and paid sick and family leave.” I also noted Grant’s propensity for taking credit for work he has done as well as work he hasn’t done, including his brief tenure campaigning for the sick-leave initiative Mosqueda helped draft (where—note to the Seattle Times—he worked for Mosqueda). “The most effective city council members,” I wrote, “aren’t the ones who grandstand and take credit; they’re the ones who do the unglamorous, nose-to-the-grindstone work of drafting legislation and rounding up support.”

When I wrote about the letter (and the Times’ seeming preference for a white person—any white person—over qualified women of color in this year’s council races), Times editorial board member Donna Blankinship demanded an apology and offered “data” (the Times has endorsed a number of women and a few people of color) as a refutation of my “opinions.” I hardly expect deep self-examination from a paper that called anti-Casa Latina, anti-El Centro de la Raza, and anti-development activist Pat Murakami a longtime “advocate” for “Seattle’s underserved communities,” but the fact that more than 100 prominent Seattle women share my “opinion” should give them pause, unless they’re going to demand apologies from every woman who signed the letter.

2. Throughout his campaign, city council Position 8 candidate Jon Grant has touted the Honest Elections initiative, which created a system of public financing for city council elections and imposed campaign spending limits, for “leveling the playing field and supporting grassroots candidates” like himself. Just yesterday, however, he requested—and got—his second exemption from the spending limits imposed by the Honest Elections program, allowing him to not only raise more money but raise it in larger contributions—up to $500, or twice what the law prescribes.

It’s unclear how raising the cap will close the fundraising gap between the two candidates unless Grant gets a sudden influx of $500 contributions, since the issue is simply that more people have chosen to donate to Mosqueda.

The first time Grant requested an exemption from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, he argued that Mosqueda had raised more than the $300,000 cap imposed by the law, when independent expenditures made on Mosqueda’s behalf (but without coordination with her campaign) were added to the amount she had raised in conntributions. Grant’s campaign calculated that the total spending by Mosqueda’s campaign and on her behalf exceeded the cap by $118,000, and argued that “In digital advertising alone, $118,000 could reach hundreds of thousands of voters. Under the current spending cap, our campaign is constrained by our budget to respond to such expenditures.”
Less than a month after receiving his first exemption, Grant was back before the Commission, arguing that because Mosqueda has more donors than he does (4,952, with an average contribution of $83, compared to Grant’s 4,304, with an average contribution of $79), she has an unfair advantage over him. Once again, the amount Grant mentions is $118,000, although this time, it doesn’t include independent expenditures—it’s just how much Mosqueda has exceeded the $300,000 cap (which Grant initially petitioned to lift) on her own. The language, in fact, is identical: “In digital advertising alone, $118,000 could reach hundreds of thousands of voters. Under the current spending cap, our campaign is constrained by our budget to respond to such expenditures.” It’s unclear how raising the cap will close the fundraising gap between the two candidates unless Grant gets a sudden influx of $500 contributions, since the issue is simply that more people have chosen to donate to Mosqueda.
As she did last month, Mosqueda will have to follow up with her own petition to lift her contribution cap from $250 to $500 so that she can compete on an even playing field with Grant. She plans to do so next Monday.

3. Blankinship’s tweet did pique my interest, so I looked at the Times’ endorsements, and what I found was this: Out of 22 endorsements for this year’s general election, The Times endorsed a total of four women of color. Two were nonincumbents running for open seats—Jinyoung Lee Englund for state senate in the 45th District, and Janice Zahn for Bellevue City Council. Zahn is running against another person of color. So is Englund. Englund is an interesting choice to illustrate the Times’ support for women, given that she is opposed to abortion rights and even sent out numerous anti-Planned Parenthood and anti-choice tweets before she scrubbed her Twitter feed. Before moving into the 45th District in April, Englund was a lobbyist for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in Washington, D.C. Her opponent, Manka Dhingra, is a moderate Democrat and a woman of color.

As for the two instances where the Times endorsed an woman of color who is an incumbent: The first, state Rep. Vandanna Slatter, is a Democrat with no Republican opponent, and the second, My-Linh Thai, has an opponent funded almost entirely by a group suing the Bellevue school board over football sanctions whose campaign, the Times wrote, was full of “red flags.”

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…And Weekly Reporting Starts This Week!: A Guide to the Month in Campaign Cash

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(Note: This post has been updated to reflect reports filed after I posted Wednesday night.)

I’ll have a post or two about the two very different forums I was at this week (including one that went until nearly 10:00 last night) shortly, but first, a little campaign-finance update for the numbers nerds. Like last month, I’m focusing on the raw numbers and where they’re coming from, with a little analysis thrown in for kicks. Much as I’d like to start off with District 3, where Pamela Banks raised more than any candidate in any race so far (as I post this tonight, Sawant has still not reported her monthly totals), these races are in order, and there are nine of them, so we’ll start over in West Seattle and make our way back to the mainland.

A quick note before I dive in to the numbers: I’ve noticed that despite protests from some candidates against contemporaneous reporting—the practice of reporting contributions as they come in rather than keeping them secret until deadline day—seems to be becoming more common in these council races. If so, that’s a heartening sign—too often, campaigns eschew transparency in the interest of dropping a payload of contributions at the last minute, to shock and awe their competitors (and potential contributors, and the media) into thinking they’re a juggernaut.

These days, though, as more candidates embrace sharing information with the public, hoarding campaign finance data starts to look less like a smart strategy and more like dissembling. Proponents of this practice say people who release their information right away are trying to look stronger than they are; tell that to Michael Maddux, one of two contenders who could defeat incumbent council member Jean Godden in District 4, or Herbold, a frontrunner in the 1st, both of whom have been reporting contemporaneously.

On to the numbers.

In District 1, Shannon Braddock, an aide to King County Council member Joe McDermott, continued to outpace her likely general-election opponent Lisa Herbold, aide to outgoing city council member Nick Licata, in sheer monthly numbers, reporting $17,760 to Herbold’s $9,733, although both are close in total dollars raised and money in the bank. Braddock has raised $45,280 total, and has $16,173 on hand, while Herbold has raised $40,132 total, with $22,024 on hand. Third-place rival Brianna Thomas, a community organizer, brought in $3,427 for a totla of $22,576, with $10,050 on hand. Thomas had the lowest average contribution, at $103 (compared to Herbold’s $122 and Braddock’s $161), but Herbold had the most contributors overall—303, compared to Thomas’ 173 and Braddock’s 160.

Moving to Southeast Seattle, District 2 showed a widening gulf between incumbent Bruce Harrell and his main challenger, food-systems advocate Tammy Morales. Although Harrell hasn’t filed a report from May, even his early numbers ($7,100 reported on individual contribution reports) represent twice as much as Morales, who raised $3,474 in May for a total of $37,391 raised and just $7,067 on hand. As of the end of April, Harrell had $107,459 on hand. Josh Farris, the Occupy activist who recently got evicted from his apartment after a long dispute with his landlord (and subsequently bought a house), raised $5,557, for a total of $6,922 with $296 on hand.

Update: Harrell reported raising $23,346 in May, for a total raised of $158,888, and $120,660 on hand. Nearly a third (31%) of his contributions are from out of town, and he has 692 individual contributors. Maybe those fundraising numbers are one reason Morales has gone on the offensive against Harrell to a greater extent than she did initially—attacks sometimes work when money won’t.

Incumbent Kshama Sawant has not released numbers for May yet either, except $3,947 previously reported, so I’ll use her space to note something I’ve mentioned on Twitter before: Sawant takes every possible opportunity to point out that she is “the only candidate who does not take money from corporations or big business.” Which is true—and if some supremely misinformed big business ever offered her money, I’m sure Sawant would say no. But the thing is, neither do most other candidates, simply because big (and small) businesses don’t give much money directly to city council campaigns. Looking at Banks’ list of contributors, I see just a few companies, including: local consulting firm Strategies 360 ($700), food truck Jemil’s Big Easy ($699), billboard company Total Outdoor ($350), and a few local businesses that made smaller contributions.

Those low numbers don’t prove there isn’t massive corporate influence in council races, Sawant’s defenders have told me, because it’s the employees of the company who give, and that’s just as good as the companies contributing themselves. I won’t run through all the companies whose employers have given to supposed corporatist Banks (you can find the list here), but I will take a moment to list some of the corporations whose workers give to Sawant. Because if the assumption is that employees share the political views of their employers when they contribute, surely Sawant can be judged by the people signing her contributors’ paychecks. Among them: Microsoft. Zillow. Amazon. Tableau. The Canadian National Railway. US Bank. And Boeing.

The point here is that unless you can point to a specific instance or event in which workers were directly pressured to give to a certain candidate, it’s unfair to trash an opponent because of where his or her contributors work. Sticking strictly to outright contributions from corporations, Sawant simply doesn’t have a case against her “corporate elite” opponent Banks.

Banks, by the way, raised $42,690 in May, for a total of $91,123 total, with $60,589 on hand. The biggest employer of Banks’ contributors? The City of Seattle. 

Also of note: As of the end of April, 37 percent of Sawant’s money came from out of town, and 86 percent overall came from outside the council district she’s seeking to represent. For Banks, those numbers are 22 percent and 67 percent, respectively.

Update: Sawant filed her report this morning, the day after the deadline (in fact, during the last six months, she reported one or more days late at the end of four monthly reporting periods.) In May, she raised $32,303, for  total of $113,973, with $8,279 on hand. She’s spending a lot of the money she raises on handbills, ads, and campaign staff—eight campaign staffers, plus two campaign consultants (Jonathan Rosenblum and the ubiquitous Philip Locker). The location of her contributors (in the district, outside, or outside Seattle) remains unclear, as 27 percent have not yet been coded by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, byt right now 26 percent are listed as being out-of-town locations. 

(Morgan Beach raised $1,807, for a total of $12,314 with $2,825 on hand, and Rod Hearne has not yet reported.)

Update: Hearne reports raising $6,597 in May, bringing his total raised to $53,994, with $22,096 on hand.

In Northeast Seattle’s District 4, incumbent council member Godden had a limp month, to say the least, raising just $7,715 for a total of $79,113, with $19,539 on hand. That’s less than her opponent Johnson, who raised $9,695 in May (with a total of %56,649 and $19,811 on hand), and just above the other leading challenger, Michael Maddux, who raised $6,026 for a total 419,423, with $7,922 on hand. Another challenger, neighborhood activist Tony Provine, raised $4,067, for a total of $17,401 total (two-thirds of that from Provine itself), and was in the red by a whopping $8,922. Maddux’s average contribution was among the lowest in any race (meaning: Not driven up by maxed-out big donors), at $92 to Johnson’s $180 and Godden’s $221.

Hearne, Lee Carter, Banks, Beach, Sawant
Hearne, Lee Carter, Banks, Beach, Sawant

The crowded race for North Seattle’s District 5, where conventional wisdom has Methodist minister Sandy Brown handily winning the primary, has five candidates fighting for second place. This month, Brown brought in $11,580 for a total of $58,118, and has $3,705 on hand. Debadutta Dash, a first-generation immigrant who goes by “Dash” for campaign purposes, reported $13,362, bringing his total to $25,203, with $9,579 on hand—although 78 percent of that total was from out of town. Dash also reported hiring former Mike McGinn transportation advisor David Hiller as his consultant.

Meanwhile, scrappy housing activist Mercedes Elizalde raised just $1,921 this month, for a total of $6,432 with $2,104 on hand, which isn’t a lot, but I’m including her here because she’s often the most interesting person on stage at North Seattle campaign debates. Attorney Debora Juarez, another presumptive frontrunner, raised $16,825 for  total of $34,622 with $22,337 on hand, and Planned Parenthood organizer Halei Watkins raised $2,385 for a total of $13,064, with $1,850 on hand.

Burgess, Persak, Grant's chair, Roderick
Burgess, Persak, Grant’s chair, Roderick

Heading back southward, incumbent council member Mike O’Brien is still holding steady in the 6th, with $11,096 raised this past month for a total of $43,940, with a comfortable $27,642 on hand. His challenger, neighborhood activist Catherine Weatbrook, won’t win but she did bring in a respectable $5,970 this month, for a total of $19,051 with $5,974 on hand. (Has anyone told Weatbrook that O’Brien is the poster child for linkage fees, and has consistently supported imposing development taxes even higher than those the council is discussing?)

In the sprawling 7th, which includes her home neighborhood, downtown, incumbent council member Sally Bagshaw remained essentially unchallenged, with supposed big-money tech guy Gus Hartmann reporting no contributions so far (he does still have until midnight tonight), and Bagshaw reporting fundraising of $7,150 this month for a total of $62,307, with $16,739 on hand. Although Bagshaw literally represents the downtown establishment, a boogeyman districts backers hoped to vanquish, no one credible and well-financed ever stepped forward to challenge her. Hmm.

Incumbent Tim Burgess is seeking to stay on the council via the citywide Position 8, and he’s raising money like he isn’t taking it for granted. Burgess brought in $37,202 this month for a total of $183,745, with $138,838 on hand. That six-digit number is surely intimidating for challengers like John Roderick (who raised $11,739 for a total of $67,325, with $36,053 on hand), but it must be chilling for a third candidate, former Tenants Union director Jon Grant, who raised just $4,722 this month, for a total of $28,552 with $20,545 on hand.

A fourth candidate, longshoreman John Persak, reported $4,135 this month for a total of $27,270, with $9,285 on hand; a quarter of that money is from Persak himself. Of the four candidates, Roderick had the most individual contributions (606 to Burgess’ 502), but Burgess had the highest number of contributions from inside Seattle—87 percent. Half of Grant’s contributions were from out of town, as were 59 percent of Roderick’s.

Finally, in the race that perhaps offers the clearest contrast between the frontrunners, citywide Position 9, Central District neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd raised $5,876, for a total of $53,415 and $23,358 on hand, to Mayor Ed Murray’s former legal counsel, Lorena Gonzalez, who reported $23,415 this month for a total of $92,486, with $58,147 on hand. A third candidate, urban planner Alon Bassok, has not yet reported.

Update: Bassok reported raising $3,852 in May, for a total of $19,277, with $7,566 on hand.