Sawant, D3 candidates respond to reports on Socialist Alternative influence at Seattle City Hall

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant has responded to reports on the control the Socialist Alternative party has over her Seattle City Council office.

Meanwhile, her possible opponents in a race for the D3 seat have weighed in with harsh criticism.

In her statement, Sawant does not refute that she is “democratically accountable” to Socialist Alternative.

“I was elected and then reelected to the Seattle City Council on the basis of my pledge to unwaveringly use my office to help build movements to win victories for ordinary working people,” Sawant’s statement on the reports reads. “A recent article from SCC Insight, now happily picked up by the corporate conservative media, argues that pledge is somehow at odds with my long-standing and publicly declared commitment to remain democratically accountable to the members of my organization, Socialist Alternative.”

Her full statement is here.

Seattle City Council Insight reported this week on findings from a trove of internal Socialist Alternative documents and communications that showed the extent to which Sawant “has handed over her Council responsibilities to Socialist Alternative.”

CHS examined the documents and reported how the Socialist Alternative structure determined Sawant’s votes on City Council actions like the confirmation of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.

The documents and letters show that not only is Sawant beholden to the tenets and causes of Socialist Alternative but that the political organization is also calling the shots in Sawant’s City Hall office, setting her policies including how the veteran council member votes, what she will say about her decision in the council chambers, and who works on her city payrolled staff.


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Defenders of Sawant point at the situation as example of a double standard being held against the socialist organization and its “democratic centralism” and argue that Sawant is “decentralizing power by being accountable to a larger organizing body.” Others point out Sawant plays a powerful role in the relatively small national organization and that D3’s priorities are well represented by the group.

CHS has requested an opportunity to discuss the Socialist Alternative documents with Sawant or organization representatives but have not received a response. A City Council spokesperson told CHS Sawant might be available later this week but Thursday provided a link to the Sawant statement posted to the official City Council website.

Beto Yarce, a member of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Small Business Advisory Council and director of a nonprofit dedicated to economic mobility for Latino small business owners who is currently seen as the strongest challenger for Sawant’s seat, is criticizing the incumbent over the reports.

“These revelations raise serious ethical and representational questions, and for residents of the 3rd council district, reflect what many of us see every day: a council member non-responsive to local needs and priorities, and instead beholden to a narrow, national ideology,” Yarce writes.

“Our district has immediate needs that require immediate, hands-on attention and local input; Seattle embraced district elections so we can have council representation listening to our voices and values, not taking instructions from a national organizations.”

Marijuana retail store owner Logan Bowers also took a swing at Sawant in a statement sent to CHS. “Our democracy is based on the principle that our elected leaders answer to their constituents,” Bowers said. “I do not think our representative is living up to their responsibilities and obligations if they’re taking marching orders from a political party.”

A third District 3 candidate, Beacon Hill neighborhood activist Pat Murakami, has not issued a statement about the situation. UPDATE 1/11/19: In an interview with CHS, Murakami said she hopes the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission looks into the reports and “takes appropriate action.”

“It’s a shame. It’s a disservice to the residents of our district,” Murakami said. “She should have been representing everybody.”

“In reality, my ability to deliver on the promises I made to the voters of District 3 and Seattle, and stand firm against big business threats, has everything to do with rooting the day-to-day political work of my office in a living social movement organization with genuine democratic structures and basing itself on grassroots collective action,” Sawant’s Thursday statement on the reports reads. “This has been the starting point for building the broader coalitions and campaigns that have succeeded in winning victory after victory for working people and District 3 residents, despite vicious opposition from big business, corporate developers, and the corporate landlord lobby.”

Sawant goes on to say she has made no secret she has been “running as a candidate” of Socialist Alternative, “which has a proud tradition of democratic decision making.”

In the statement, Sawant also criticizes Mayor Jenny Durkan for her close relationships with consultants and lobbyists.

Sawant’s political career in Seattle was formed out of the Occupy movement when the economist was still teaching at Seattle Central and Seattle University. Through the 1,100 word statement, Sawant does not specifically say she will run for reelection but acknowledges that 2019 is, indeed, an election year.

“Most politicians make election-year promises to working people in order to get their votes, but then promptly betray them once elected,” she writes. “When socialists run for office, we do so in order to fight for the interests of working people.”

Local Socialist Alternative organizers seem geared up for the fight. A January 29th event — Socialists Into City Hall—Building the Mvmt in the 2019 Election — will feature Sawant, a “Socialist Alternative Member & 2019 Candidate for D3.”

Sawant also says to expect more “attacks” through the year. “In an election year when big business is fiercely determined to get progressives and socialists out of City Hall, we should expect more of the same.”

Sawant’s complete statement is below:

Holding Elected Officials Accountable to Working People

I was elected and then reelected to the Seattle City Council on the basis of my pledge to unwaveringly use my office to help build movements to win victories for ordinary working people. A recent article from SCC Insight, now happily picked up by the corporate conservative media, argues that pledge is somehow at odds with my long-standing and publicly declared commitment to remain democratically accountable to the members of my organization, Socialist Alternative. Socialist Alternative is the social movement organization I have helped to build and lead, and it has been a driving force behind my election campaigns, the historic victory on the $15 minimum wage, and many progressive gains working people have won in Seattle.

In reality, my ability to deliver on the promises I made to the voters of District 3 and Seattle, and stand firm against big business threats, has everything to do with rooting the day-to-day political work of my office in a living social movement organization with genuine democratic structures and basing itself on grassroots collective action. This has been the starting point for building the broader coalitions and campaigns that have succeeded in winning victory after victory for working people and District 3 residents, despite vicious opposition from big business, corporate developers, and the corporate landlord lobby.

I have made no secret of the fact that I was running as a candidate of Socialist Alternative, which has a proud tradition of democratic decision making and is made up of ordinary people fighting for workers and oppressed communities. We are nothing like the Democratic and Republican parties, who pretend to be accountable to working people but who are in reality politically dominated and funded by the super rich and big corporations like Amazon and Comcast.

Most politicians make election-year promises to working people in order to get their votes, but then promptly betray them once elected. When socialists run for office, we do so in order to fight for the interests of working people. Because we build a democratic organization to ensure accountability, we stay true to that promise, rather than bending to the pressures from the billionaire class, as we have seen Seattle’s Democratic Party politicians do over and over, including last year with the shameful repeal of the Amazon Tax.

Big business has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to heavily influence politicians in Seattle to block progressive legislation. Despite overwhelming support for progressive policies from the majority of Seattleites, corporate power has been able to stymie efforts towards a massive and much-needed expansion of affordable housing by taxing big business, establishing a municipal broadband network, and funding neighborhood needs as opposed to subsidizing ventures for the corporate elite.

Just last Sunday, the Seattle Times revealed the huge influence business lobbyists have within Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. After Sandeep Kaushik’s lobbying firm played a central role in Durkan’s corporate-financed election campaign and her backdoor push to repeal the Amazon Tax, now “Kaushik describes himself and Evans as members of Durkan’s informal ‘kitchen cabinet,’ even as they lobby her administration and advocate for corporate clients such as Comcast, Lyft and Airbnb” (Seattle Times, 1/6/19).

We need many more, not fewer, representatives in office who are anchored to a democratic grassroots base like Socialist Alternative and other social movement organizations. This is critical to withstand the huge pressures from the corporate establishment. It was exactly the lack of a democratic, grassroots political anchor that led seven of the nine Seattle City Councilmembers to twist in the wind and then betray working people after Jeff Bezos and other big businesses bullied City Hall on the Amazon Tax, which was originally passed unanimously and then repealed 7-2 just one month later.

This cuts to the core of why we in Socialist Alternative have consistently argued for building a broader political party for working people in this country, to unite our social movements, unions, and community groups together and boldly fight for progressive change, completely independent of corporate money. Such a working people’s party would need to have real internal democratic structures to decide which candidates to run, to debate and decide on a common program and, unlike the Democratic Party, to actually hold those candidates accountable to that program – including their votes – once in office.

In contrast to Democratic and Republican politicians, our accountability to working people has meant that we have successfully used our council office to build movements to win the historic $15/hour minimum wage, a series of landmark renters’ rights victories, replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day, stopping the “Stepping Forward” public housing attack, protecting the Showbox, and winning millions in funding for vital social services. Every single one of these victories was won despite the opposition of City Hall politicians loyal to big business, and required overcoming their backdoor machinations and maneuvers.

So in response to SCC Insight and other recent media coverage attacking Socialist Alternative and my office, I plead guilty – to being a democratically accountable socialist elected representative, and not a corporate politician.

These articles insinuate that my votes reflect some sort of puppetry. In fact, I am an elected leader of Socialist Alternative who agrees with, and has argued for within our democratic structures, the political decisions and votes I have taken while in office. The allegations of ethics violations are similarly utterly baseless. The real issue the political establishment has is that my accountability is to working people and social movements, instead of to the corporate agenda.

We should in no way be surprised by these attacks. In an election year when big business is fiercely determined to get progressives and socialists out of City Hall, we should expect more of the same. At heart, these attacks are nothing new; they are just good old fashioned red baiting. As Dae Shik Kim Hawkins of the Seattle People’s Party remarked with appropriate irony on Twitter, in response to the SCC Insight story: “Breaking news: socialist elected officials decentralizing power by being accountable to a larger organizing body.” Genuine socialists have always rooted themselves in accountability to working people and social movements and in collective, democratic decision making.

I wear the badge of socialist with honor. I will continue to fight unambiguously and relentlessly to win gains for Seattle workers and for an alternative to this rotten and corrupt system, while fiercely opposing all efforts of big business to give marching orders in this city.

But the struggle for a City Hall that represents working people has only begun. This year, we need to begin building a broader independent left challenge in Seattle to throw out the corporate politicians and replace them with working class representatives who take no corporate money, who are democratically accountable to social movement organizations, and who will consistently stand up to Amazon and the Chamber of Commerce.

 

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32 thoughts on “Sawant, D3 candidates respond to reports on Socialist Alternative influence at Seattle City Hall

  1. hey, @jseattle, how does it feel to be one of the “…corporate conservative media”?

    “In reality, my ability to deliver on the promises I made to the voters of District 3 and Seattle, and stand firm against big business threats, has everything to do with rooting the day-to-day political work of my office in a living social movement organization with genuine democratic structures and basing itself on grassroots collective action,” Sawant’s Thursday statement on the reports reads.

    and yet the leaked documents suggest otherwise. they suggest a small minority wielding power within the SA group are the ones making the decisions for the entire party; without democratic input from the whole party.

    plus, sawant wasn’t elected to enact the socialist parties global vision on district 3. she was elected to help keep the sidewalks shit free. to find ways to get the homeless from needing to shoot-up and pass-out across the sidewalks. elected to make district 3 fair for all races and walks of life. none of which i think anyone can she she’s made an impact on.

  2. How can folks expect her to deal with issues like potholes and garbage pickup when she’s starting a revolution!

    From one of Seattle’s city council nine seats no less!

    • Yeah, pretty much. It’s about like listening to CheetoHead tell you exactly who he is while running for President, then being shocked when he turns out to be– surprise– *exactly who he said he was* ! Sawant is basically saying– “yeah, all that shit– didn’t you know?”.

      Face it, SSS (Sawant-supporting suckers):
      you bought a pig in a poke.

    • There is a huge difference. The GOP is registered and anyone can find out who is on the executive committee, who the pct captains are, etc… Huge difference.

  3. There are and will perhaps be more alternative candidates. Study them all and pick the one who you feel will do right by the Hill and Seattle. It most certainly has not been Sawant.

  4. Sawant is clearly in spin mode. I think these revelations are a death knell for Sawant’s re-election chances, thank goodness.

    Her actions, and subservience to the national socialist party, are an obvious ethics violation. I hope the City Council as a whole investigates, and that she is impeached (if that is possible).

    • Bob,
      There is a process for impeaching her, but if you do a search on it you’ll find a post where someone outlines the entire process. The TL/DR version of it is, it would be such a long and drawn-out process it wouldn’t be worth the bother. A much more productive use of time is active grassroots resistance to her ridiculous extreme agenda. That would also have the added benefit of making more people aware, informed, and involved, instead of just focusing on her as an individual. If using her is the inspiration to get that going, OK. But she’s just the symptom of how easy it is to (initially) fool people by appealing to their noble idealism. But it’s not really all about her.

  5. Kshama’s gonna go out kicking and shrieking. She has no choice. If she declines to run, she’ll look weak in the eyes of her starry-eyed minions, to whom she has promised power and freebies. If she runs, she most likely lose, but her self-constructed reputation as a ‘fighter’ will be (somewhat) intact.

    ‘Revolution’ has been very, very good to Kshama. She’s the ‘Pastor Mark’ of self-consciously radical Seattle. Her claims to live like ‘average worker’ talk are frauds intended to deflect from the fact that she lives like a 1%er. Her slanders against anyone who doesn’t grovel at her feet are frauds intended to deflect from the fact that _she_ is a NIMBY who does nothing for the wretched of Seattle that doesn’t benefit her politically.

    Deep down, she must be frightened. This SCC seat is the best thing that’s ever happened to her. She loses it, the curtain drops on her ‘revolution,’ and her income returns to it’s market level–that of a part time instructor at a community college. Not a consummation devoutly to be wished.

    I hope for her sake she hasn’t liquidated all the Microsoft stock her ex-husband paid out to be rid of her.

  6. So let’s deconstruct some of Kshama’s statement:
    “Because we build a democratic organization to ensure accountability, we stay true to that promise, rather than bending to the pressures from the billionaire class, as we have seen Seattle’s Democratic Party politicians do over and over, including last year with the shameful repeal of the Amazon Tax.”
    If you read through the available Socialist Alternative emails, position papers and memoranda that have become available this week (and the best place to go is to Kevin Schofield’s “SCCInsight” blog) you will see that SA is a nest of snakes fighting over ‘My Leninism’ versus ‘Your Trotskyism’ replete with accusations of internal racism, homophobia, misogyny and lots of ‘you lack the correct Marxist-thought to be MY comrade!’. A good number of SA folks were kicked out of the group last year during that sh*tstorm. “Democratic organization”, ha ha. Reread Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.
    As far as repeal of the Head Tax/Amazon Tax last year- that was a result of ordinary, grass-roots Seattleites who were tired of the homeless tents and RVs and needles and crime in their neighborhoods and knew that the Head Tax was likely going to just bring more of the same. Amazon was delighted that they could sit back and reap their benefit without any heavy lifting.

    • You are exactly right about the repeal of the head tax. There was a hue and cry from Seattleites everywhere that throwing more money at the homeless problem is not the solution, and for once the City Council heard this grassroots rebellion.

    • Sawantism is, to borrow a phrase from V.I. Lenin, an “infantile disorder.”

      National Lampoon would have a hard time parodying these folks.

  7. No big Sawant fan here, but these “revelations” strike me as classic red-baiting. For better or worse, one thing the councilperson has always been open and clear about is her membership in the Socialist Alternative Party. It doesn’t make me more confident in Beto Yarce to see him at the fore of this effort to uncover these non-secrets.

    • I agree. We should’t be shocked that she adheres to the party-line doctrine of the SA. It’s no more shocking than hard-line Republicans or Democrats running on straight-ticket party issues. She wasn’t hiding anything. People have their panties in a wad now because they’re learning all this time, it’s even worse than they thought. Seems like it was right there all along, just under the surface.

    • How is this red-baiting? She’s not being harassed because she’s a socialist. She’s being called out because she was elected to represent the voice of the residents of district 3; not the global agenda of the socialist alternative party.

      What people are “getting their panties in a wad” about isn’t that she’s a socialist; or even that she’s putting a socialist spin on a effort to, say, keep the sidewalks clean. It’s that everything she does is orchestrated by an international organization for the benefit of the party. Nothing she does is because of direct intention to improve the lives in D3; it’s to better the greater socialist alternative organization. While Democrats and Republicans all adhere to their party’s agenda, they do so as a filter to (try to) improve the lives of the people that voted them into office. Again, Sawant represents none of that. The “revelations” are that she’s a puppet to help push the growth of the Socialist party.

      Also, Beto Yarce isn’t at the fore of any of this. He merely commented, as another candidate for D3 – Logan Bowers – did, about the contents of the report that SCCI put out. It’s Kevin Schofield from SCCI that’s at the fore to “uncover these non-secrets”.

  8. This is hilarious. Wait til all these panicking dipshits learn about how much control the Republican party has over their Senate members. Theres a whole new world out there for them, and it has scary new concepts like “party whip” and “Senate Majority Leader”. If anything, their problem is that they never bothered to consider the Socialist Alliance as a political party and now they want to pretend that their obliviousness was Sawant’s fault.

    • Could you give an example of Mitch McConnell intervening to get a federal employee fired because they were insufficiently Republican?

      You can’t, because that’s illegal. As it is in this case.

      Sure, politics exists everywhere, and parties have a lot of power, but the cynicism in these comments is breathtaking and alarming. This is NOT the norm in American politics and government. This is why we have a civil servant workforce and this goes to the heart of it.

      It’s a spectrum, people, and formalizing an international committee to decide your votes and hire/fire your staff is WAY at one end of it.

      • Exactly. Sawant pretended to be better than the status quo politics too, working for the working class instead of a party. She outdid the Seattle officials she was supposedly different from in terms of unapologetic ethical problems. She set herself to a higher standard, and failed.

      • I can give you an example of 800,000 civil servants for which Mitch intervened to cut off their paychecks because his party told him not to let the Senate take a vote.

        And this is going to upset you, but here’s the main public channel to get a job working as federally paid staff for a republican member of congress – https://twitter.com/gopjobbank?lang=en. There’s a Democrat equivalent. All of these staff are hired and fired based on whether they agree politically with the politician they are working for, and paid by the federal government. Mcconnell doesn’t need to intervene personally, it’s all a smooth pipeline. How did you think it worked?

      • Yup, it’s common to give jobs to former campaign employees/volunteers.

        Still waiting to hear of a time when said former campaign employees were fired at the behest of the RNC for expressing private disagreement with some element of the party platform or political strategy.

        Shouldn’t be hard to find an example – if this is as common as you’re making it out to be – since every elected official has staff.

    • We’re commenting on the extent to which the party’s platform controls the day-to-day legislation of the elected official. Not whether or not the party subsequently interferes to get somebody fired.

  9. Did anyone else appreciate the irony of Kshama citing Dae Hawkins? Dae’s a ‘holy man,’ an itinerant pastor, ABD divinity student, and all-round virtue warrior, tweeting furiously to market his brand. Kshama’s a doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist. She’d pack the Rev. Hawkins off to a slave labor camp if she ever had the opportunity. Narcissism makes for strange bedfellows.

  10. Ooh, so “The Three Stooges” running against Kshama Sawant are horrified, terrified, petrified — because Kshama holds herself accountable to both her party Socialist Alternative and her sisters-and-brothers her working-class constituents!

    What else can one expect — from the 3 sniveling strike-breaking scabs!
    :)

    Kshama Sawant, unlike the above 3 corporate lickspittles, is a genuine socialist.
    She spearheaded the $15 minimum-wage victory in Seattle.

    So please vote for Kshama Sawant!
    And join her election campaign — make it your own!
    And donate to her party, Socialist Alternative!
    Most importantly, please consider joining Socialist Alternative.
    Together we have a world to win!

    https://www.socialistalternative.org/

    • It is truly interesting to watch the loss of historical perspective since the demise of Communism in the Soviet Union and China. Since those systems collapsed (and China’s current regime is not Communist in anything but name) a new generation has arisen, and some seem totally oblivious to the shortcomings of societies organized around Communist principles. They mouth the same platitudes, pump their fists when prompted, and fall victim to the same lies which duped their predecessors. Truly interesting to watch.

    • socialistworld, or should I just call you Kshama?

      You are not making proper use of the approved dialectical methods with this little rant of yours. You have done the negation part pretty well, the “negation of the lower processes” (see Lenin’s works); nice phraseology with the “Three Stooges” and the “3 sniveling strike-breaking scabs” and the “3 corporate lickspittles”! But more on that later.

      What you are lacking here is any vision of YOUR “inner impulses towards development” by the “universal processes of motion” (again the quotes are from Lenin). Show a little positivism, Comrade! Seattle is in a sad state of affairs right now; bad traffic, construction everywhere, drug use out on our busy sidewalks, beloved nightclubs closing, etc., etc. Seattle needs hope for a better future. Bring out someone, obviously not connected to Socialist Alternative, whose life has been improved by Kshama Sawant and let them speak for you (because let’s face it, you’re not doing a very good job of that).

      Now you do realize that in your weakened political state you’re likely to have more than three challengers, right? So dust off some good zingers with ‘four’ or ‘five’ in them; like “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!”. Maybe too sexist with the horsemen thing, though. Maybe “The Gang of Five”. Seattle is counting on you!

      • Oho “Lothar Zogg”,

        Are you considering running too?
        You could then call yourselves “The Four Half-Wits of the Apoplexy”!
        :)

        Seriously though, the $15 Minimum-Wage victory, spearheaded by Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative, and the underpaid workers themselves, has indeed “improved the lives” of 100,000 workers in Seattle.

        So stop being bamboozled by the billionaires, and vote for Kshama!
        And donate to her campaign, and to Socialist Alternative.
        Most importantly, consider joining us!
        Together we have a world to win!

        https://www.socialistalternative.org/

      • Keep digging socialistworld, just keep digging. The more you rant, the more people you alienate with this delusion. You’re certainly not helping Comrade Sawant’s re-election chances– if she even plans to try again. I’d bet she’s thinking now she was lucky with the two successes she had, and it’s time to fold up shop and move on to– um… to wherever she thinks her next step up on the ladder is.

      • Let’s hope so, Jim, let’s hope so. But I fear that Kshama is so arrogant and self-righteous that she wouldn’t even consider dropping out.

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