Reporting by CHS and SCC Insight has led to a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission complaint against Kshama Sawant from a political opponent seeking to unseat the Socialist Alternative veteran from her seat on the Seattle City Council.
“Kshama is using her office to do work on behalf of the Socialist Alternative organization and she appears to be attempting to shield that work from public disclosure laws,” Logan Bowers tells CHS about the new complaint.
In it, Bowers alleges Sawant “permitted the use of city funds and personnel by the Socialist Alternative party” and that she and staff “have been using 3rd party communications services to conduct City of Seattle business,” a violation of state law.
“While I expect that these apparent violations of city and State law will ultimately be adjudicated at the ballot box, I believe for the health our democratic institutions the voters of District 3 and Seattle deserve to know definitively the extent and legality of council member Sawant’s actions during her tenure in office,” Bowers writes.
Sawant has not responded to the complaint. We will update when and if she does.
The complaint is based on documents published by the Seattle City Council Insight news site and further reporting from CHS about how Socialist Alternative calls the shots in the Sawant office. “The IEC agrees that the running and staffing of KS’s office in Seattle be agreed by the national EC of the organisation in consultation with KS,” a resolution adopted by Socialist Alternative’s National Executive Committee in December 2017 reads. According to other internal Socialist Alternative documents, decisions about who is — and is not — on Sawant’s city office staff are also made at an organizational level.
Bowers said he is aware of another complaint against Sawant that was made to the SEEC following the reporting in January but that he decided to move forward independently. “I think that the people of the district have the right to know if she truly committed a felony,” he said Tuesday. Bowers, who has made a housing first push to unseat Sawant and currently leads the pack of would-be Sawant challengers after Beto Yarce surprised many and suspended his campaign, will hold a campaign kickoff event this Thursday at 5:30 PM at 12th Ave’s Rhein Haus.
“There is a really crystal clear connecting the dots that was just about Kshama Sawant so I put that together,” Bowers tells CHS.
Sawant has faced down ethics complaints before. Last year, there were at least four complaints made against the council member alleging “use of taxpayer-funded resources to promote a political agenda” — each was dismissed.
Following the CHS and SCCI stories, Sawant responded to reports on Socialist Alternative influence at Seattle City Hall. “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.”
The complaint now sits with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, an independent committee of seven citizen volunteers. “The Commission is responsible for interpreting and applying the Seattle Ethics, Elections, Election Pamphlet, and Whistleblower Protection Codes and the City’s Lobbying Regulations,” the city says. There are also six staff members to investigate complaints and monitor compliance. Bowers said he has also sent the complaint to State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The full complaint from Bowers is below.