Seattle’s new Democracy Vouchers program worked to create a more level playing field for campaign donations in 2017 — but one candidate who tried to utilize the program has been charged with false reporting and attempted theft in what police say was a fraud that started with outreach to voters at last June’s Trans Pride event in Cal Anderson Park.
Sheley Secrest, 43, was charged Wednesday in Seattle Municipal Court for allegedly using her own money to boost her campaign contributions to qualify for the Democracy Voucher program. Under the program, a candidate is required to “collect at least 400 qualifying signatures and contributions” to qualify for the up to $150,000 in funding the program can provide depending on how people donate their $25 certificates.
Secrest mounted an unsuccessful run for Seattle City Council Position 8 and was knocked out of the race in the primary. CHS talked with the attorney about her candidacy here.
After tipping off the Seattle’s Ethics and Election Commission, Secrest’s former campaign manager Patrick Burke told police how the alleged ripoff began with a day collecting signatures in Cal Anderson:
Burke told police about the dubious cash handoff that followed:
In the 40+ page report, police document tracking down people who signed for Secrest and Burke that day. Some reported asking what the signatures were for. “I just need signatures to get on the ballot,” one said she was told.
Prior to the Secrest case, officials had been touting the voucher program as a success. Around 25,000 Seattleites made campaign contributions last year. Driving the big tally, 18,000 Seattle residents gave nearly 70,000 Democracy Vouchers to 2017 candidates. For comparison, roughly 8,200 donated in 2013.
UPDATE: Erica Barnett reports Secrest faces up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 on the more serious theft charge.
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