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Bowers steps up effort to unseat Sawant with ethics complaint over Socialist Alternative influence

Allegations from the new complaint

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.

A passage from an internal Socialist Alternative document that appears to discuss staffing in Sawant’s Seattle City Council office

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.

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27 thoughts on “Bowers steps up effort to unseat Sawant with ethics complaint over Socialist Alternative influence

  1. It would be helpful to have someone explain to me like I’m a 5 year old why her adherence to SA direction is that much different than a Republican or Democrat hewing closely to their parties platform. Is it because the control is so direct? (As the allegations above now make clear.) It seems pretty transparent compared to other dark money and PACs in politics.

    • Do you really think, for example, the national Democratic Party machine would try to tell Jenny Durkan who she can hire in her Seattle office? Do you think she’d go along with it? I doubt it. If that was happening I’d be pretty PO’d, wouldn’t you?

      • Not necessarily. When I vote for someone I expect them to carry out on their platform and pledges as best as they think they can be successful. I don’t vote for someone then hope to micromanage how they achieve their goals.

        I really don’t know how Durken or anyone makes any particular appointment or decision. Not pointing specifically to anyone, but I’m sure enough positions are filled as backroom deals.

        If she’s not breaking laws or being amoral about it, how she staffs and manages her office only matters to me as to effectiveness.

        But that still leaves me with the thrust of my main question, is it really any different or might it be better or how is it worse than the way other folks staff their offices?

    • Hi AJ,

      The issue I raise here isn’t who she takes marching orders from. As you point out, it is legal for her to listen to whomever she chooses. The illegal part is:
      (1) People on her city staff hired with city money cannot do work for the Socialist Alternative organization while on the job. By law they must be working only on city business for the people of Seattle.
      (2) She cannot use 3rd party services (like google drive) to conduct city business (in this case hire and fire staff) without making any documents she creates available to the public. All work done on your behalf is subject to your review by law.

      • Thank you.

        Yes #2 sounds pretty cut and dry.

        #1 though sounds tougher to parse and evaluate. If the SA goals and her work goals on the city council “overlap” in desired outcome or the SA work can be shown to help achieve the goals for her constituents, might it be a case of “intersectonality” and playing towards building a lasting political infrastructure that supports her council position?

        As a gay white male Democrat, I want to make sure that we aren’t holding a female 3rd party candidate to higher level scrutiny than everyone else. If this helps shine a light on everyone else doing it, then yeah let’s fix it. But if that’s the case then the duscuasion needs to be broadened beyond KSawant.

    • It should also be pointed out that all of our municipal and county elected officials are non-partisan. So it is alarming that she is bringing party politics into a position that the people and the charter clearly say should be non-partisan. This is intentional so that local elected officials will answer only to the people they represent and not to special interests.

    • For those of you who think “what’s the big deal” replace “Socialist Alternative” with “the NRA” and tell me if you think this is what we should expect of our elected officials?

      How would you feel about the NRA board deciding who should and should not work in a city office and determining how an elected official should vote 100% of the time… with all of this defined in the NRA charter and SOPs?

      If you think this is OK then you should be equally OK with this when conservative “politicians” engage in this behavior.

      And remember, we are not talking about Bernie Sander or Ocacia Cortez here. Sawant and the SA have disdain for Sander or Ocacia Cortez and the Democratic Socialists of America party since the Democratic Socialists still believe in private property and capitalism, they just want more equitable form of it. SA and Sawant (from their own words and documents) want to eliminate capitalism and private property (as well as all police). They are not for a Scandinavian democratic socialist model, they are for full communism.

      And SA is not what one would think of as a political party or organization. You cannot simply join, you must past a political purity test/interview before you will be allowed in (again, their own policy documents). Apparently there aren’t many people who meet the required level of devotion as there are only 1,000 members in the entire country (interesting similar numbers as Jonestown). They are pretty irrelevant as a movement… except that they FULLY control the Seattle District 3 city council seat and office… because apparently people like angry rhetoric and are willing to be used just like a Trump supporter.

      But hey, what’s the big deal?

      • As you pointed out, our local offices are officially non-partisan. I don’t have a problem with her having a party affiliation, in her case Socialist Alternative. I expect her judgement to be influenced by the values and principles her party espouses (just like Durkan, or anyone else). That’s perfectly reasonable. But taking marching orders for who she can locally staff with, and them having input as such, in my opinion goes over the line. I wouldn’t want the DNC with their nose all up in Durkan’s grille, and I don’t want SA up in Sawant’s, either. Whether she’s OK with it or not. That makes her as bought-and-paid for as any politician is to a lobbyist.

      • I could give two shits about Sawant – I’m just making an observation. There are definitely more important issues in the city to address than the political minutiae of the city council position and clearly this guy has a ideological hard on against socialists in office more than he cares about the outcome of the work she does or doesn’t do.

  2. This sounds like Bowers figuring out that he can’t beat Kshama in a free and fair election. Hey Bowers, how much Amazon/developer $$ are you getting in exchange for doing their dirty work?

    • Oooo, the ultimate Seattle (lame)political insult now– try to tie someone to The Demon Amazon®. Why not call him a Trump supporter too, since you’re otherwise seemingly desperate to refute those complaints against her?

    • Not saying that I’m supporting Bowers, but at least he is participating in the democracy voucher program, which means he can’t take in money like you described. Unlike Sawant, who refuses to participate in the program. Which in turn allows her to take in big money from out of state donors like she has always done in the past. Her refusal to be a part of the solution to get big money out of our elections speaks volumes about who she actually represents, and it’s not those of us in District 3.

      • @matthew it’s worth pointing out the limitations and challenges of the democracy vouchers.

        For one, accepting democracy vouchers doesn’t stop a candidate from having a PAC that takes unlimited money.

        Secondly, candidates who _do_ use democracy vouchers have a fundraising cap of 150k.

        The presumption, I think, was that any KS challenger would get some serious PAC backing at the end of the race because of all KS has done to rankle big business and, if that happened, the only way to stay competitive was to fundraise hard and not apply for the voucher program.

        So the decision to not take dem. vouchers, while unfortunate and one I don’t agree with, is at least understandable in the political realities of the Citizens United decision.

  3. How is that rent control she campaigned on ..what is it now.. 5 years ago, work out for you?

    As they say in Texas: all hat, no cattle

    Id vote for a Republican (God forgive me) before Id vote for her She is a complete nut job

  4. Ooh! Logan Bowers the Pot-Shop Plutocrat seems to have smoked all his merchandise at once!

    A silly mud-slinging attempt by Bowers who knows virtually nobody will vote for him.

    • Name-calling–the last resort when someone’s afraid of losing a discussion.
      Hmmm, who does that remind me of….?

  5. “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.”

    Really. Then why is CH turning into crime-ridden, garbage-strewn crap hole? Why are calls or emails to your office neither acknowledged nor answered? Politics gets a lot easier when you stop listening to what politicians say, and look at what they do.

  6. That quote says it all: “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 doesn’t expect the ‘complaint’ to go anywhere. It’s politics, and pretty dirty politics at that, all the way down. And it’s hilarious to see all of the empty accusations of ‘playing politics’ hurled against Sawant supporters right here on this thread. “Politicking is for me and not for thee,” is it? Sawant haters are truly a rotten bunch, I hope she wins again and all of your faces get rubbed in it.

    • I should have said Bowers doesn’t expect the ‘complaint’ to go anywhere, just like the others that were dismissed because they had no merit, just as the article pointed out.

      In the real world trying to tar a political opponent by bringing nonsense ethics complaints against them is a low blow, and people can plainly see the politician using such gross tactics is not the kind of person you can trust to represent them on the city council.

      But inside the Sawant Derangement Syndrome bubble ethics complaints that lack any merit add up to some kind of “pattern of evil,” and voters are eager to hear such empty rhetoric. Yeah right, stick to your day jobs.

      • Inferring that he doesn’t expect the complain to go anywhere because he really doesn’t believe it has any merit is a stretch. It might just as easily be because he thinks the Ethics and Elections Commissions is useless.

        Whether they rule against him or not, his complaint isn’t baseless–except maybe to Sawant supporters who see nothing wrong with her antics. Whether she has a “pattern of evil” (your words) or not is subjective. A lot of us clearly think she clearly has a pattern of uselessness.

  7. I cannot wait for KS to get voted out. She does not respond to her constituents at all. I’ve needed help from her office multiple times as have my neighbors and they simply ignored us! The whole point of her position is to represent her neighborhood which she does not.

    Frankly I’m not surprised to hear her office is controlled by a non-local group. I was also not surprised to learn that the salary she donated to “charity” actually goes to the group which employs her husband.

  8. Let’s analyze Logan Bowers the Corporate Cannabis Czar’s calumniatory caterwaulings:

    “Aargh! Kshama Sawant holds herself accountable to her party Socialist Alternative — not to me personally!”

    For over a hundred years, every genuine socialist party — such as Socialist Alternative — and every genuine socialist fighter — such as Kshama Sawant — have placed every public position we win, completely under dual accountability.

    So, Kshama is proudly and gladly accountable to both Socialist Alternative and her fellow-worker voters.

    Mayor Durkan and the corporate councilmembers are accountable to the capitalist class, to Wall Street, to Bezos and other billionaire brigands.

    As you saw with their shameful and cowardly repeal of the Amazon Hours Tax, Bezos says “Jump” and they say “How high?”!

    Kshama is accountable not to those specimens but to her party and her class.