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Sawant ethics complaints over Socialist Alternative influence dismissed

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has announced it has dismissed two complaints lodged against District 3 representative Kshama Sawant over allegations the City Council member misused her position on behalf of her Socialist Alternative political organization.

“Fundamentally, I believe that elected officials are free to structure their decision-making process as they wish, subject to the will of the voters every four years,” SEEC director Wayne Barnett writes in his decision. “Campaigns are won and lost based on voters’ estimations of whose interests elected officials are serving and who interests they are not. I do not find the way Councilmember Sawant makes her decisions to be a misuse of the position.”

The dismissal covers two complaints filed against Sawant including one from District 3 opponent Logan Bowers.

The complaints followed publication of documents 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.

According to the SEEC decision, Sawant was interviewed about her work with the Seattle Executive Committee of Socialist Alternative but Barnett, found that decisions ultimately laid with Sawant:

Barrett said allegations related to Socialist Alternative-paid travel were also unfounded and that there was not enough information to investigate allegations that Sawant had shared confidential personnel documents with Socialist Alternative.

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.

The full report from the SEEC is below.

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16 thoughts on “Sawant ethics complaints over Socialist Alternative influence dismissed

  1. I wonder if “Socialist Alternatives” was replaced with “the NRA” that the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission would have come to the same conclusion. Maybe so, but I’m sure countless Seattle citizens would be appalled if such was the case.

    I guess the perspective put for by some commenters on previous reporting of this issues were on point… “what’s the big deal?” I happen to think it’s a big deal, just like I think the NRA controlling so many legislators is a problem… and the NRA has far less control of their Congressional minions than Socialist Alternatives has over Sawant (which is complete Borg like assimilation).

    I thought that a Representative Democracy was supposed to represent an electorate, but sadly it is simply winner-take-all and the rest just need to suck it up. I guess us folk that do not reside on the extremes don’t matter too much since we are not a cult. Maybe we should form a extreme centrist party. Disappointing that the complete outsourcing an elected office to narrow special interest group is now an acceptable norm… I must be getting old.

    • I mean, I don’t want either. I don’t like Sawant because she doesn’t represent Seattle or District 3. She represents a large socialist organization and is using her position to that end. She’s done little to actually help the city. Locally, she focuses on items that generate headlines, but have marginal impact. Save this family owned restaurant, preserve this landmark (insert gentrification arguments here), create a couple hundred union jobs. She ignores important things, like how airbnb is enabling foreign capital-based property speculators to sit on enormous amounts of property to add to the rent scarcity problems, while simultaneously decrying the sale of a 10 year hole in the ground (which costs taxpayers money to keep up) as corporate wellfare. Thankfully that deal finally went through.

      I’m sincerely not impressed by her, and would definitely prefer a candidate who didn’t have to many external influences and interests. As it stands she doesn’t represent Seattle, much less Capitol Hill. (Disclaimer: I voted DeWolf in the primaries, and will be voting Orion in the actual election)

  2. You don’t like Sawant, simple vote her out. Get your own grass roots effort together and fight socialism. Remove her and her cronies. There, problem solved. If district 3 voters elect her again shame on them. I guess that is who they want to represent them. She certainly does not represent the common person. She is a show person, a game player, representing her ideology. I think she has a bigger political office agenda, she will soon get bored of the city and go into state and or national politics. I think she is jealous of the other socialists getting all the attention and taking it away from her.

    • The problem with grassroots campaigns is they will always have a representation advantage over externally capitalized initiatives. Sawant pays for hoards of doorbelling canvassers with the huge amount of money her national organization gives her, a feat that other truly local candidates can’t compete with. If the only other option is to elect a candidate also backed by a large national-level interest, I’d like a third option that actually treats the city as if it has its own economy, population, interests and issues that need to be addressed.

  3. Trump is (partially) exonerated, now Sawant is exonerated. But it is quite obvious to many people that both of them have done unethical things, if not illegal. I am appalled that Sawant can get away with taking directions from SA, and that the SEEC thinks this is perfectly OK.

    Sawant is primarily representing the socialist cause and the Socialist Alternative organization. She could care less about representing the citizens of District 3.

  4. The original complaint was cc:ed to the Wa AG. I’m am sure they will appeal this, while her husband crows that this has been dumped into the “dustbin of history”. The SEEC merely an internal agency that helps city employees and electeds cover ass. They do not work for the people of Seattle. We can elect 9 more CMs and we would have the same result with this SEEC. Barnett needs to retire.

  5. This is all conjecture on what Sawant did or did not do. If you have evidence, (emails, recorded phone conversations) where the organization told her to vote a certain way, then yes, it is shady. But if her ideals and the socialists ideals match and she makes decisions on voting and administration based on those shared ideals, how can you believe she is being told what to do versus choosing to do so.

    I”m not a lover of Sawant at all. I find her shrill and hot headed. Its not how I want Seattle represented. So I don’t vote for her. Give me someone that is good and has my shared values (I”m independent leaning democrat/ if they can get their stuff together) then I will vote for them.
    In our system of government, generally, you have to have evidence to prosecute and find judgement. Sometimes evidence exists and is suppressed to keep the person in office (depending on how much control you have over the ones judging the evidence).

    We have lots of problems to solve in Seattle and America. Yes, political corruption is ugly and we want to believe it doesn’t happen. But it does. How do you change it? You vote. You run for office. You get together with those that are like minded and become the catalysts of change.

    • Not conjecture. The evidence that SA explicitly tells her how to vote (even what to say) is in the trove of SA internal documents which can be found at

      It’s one thing being influenced and loyal to your party, it’s another thing to outsource your elected office to them… especially when the “party” consists of nobody but a handful of hard core extremist who keep control via a closed membership.

      Read the docs. It’s so bizarre I’m waiting for it to be a Netfix series.

      • No love for Sawant here, but how is her taking voting direction from the SA any different than a (D) or (R) taking their voting direction from the DNC or RNC? It’s a problem that spans the entire political spectrum at all levels.

        If a majority of voters in her district have a problem with her taking voting direction from the SA, they will vote her out.

  6. She says that she always agree with the organization. She’s not being controlled by them, they just always give her good advice. The voters of District 3 will have to decide if that’s the kind of Councilmember they want.

    The original SCC write up was a hell of a piece of work, particular for carefully parsing some rather arcane debates within the left.