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Di$trict 3: $500/month for a Central District office? Campaign supplies from Amazon? Why did Sawant pay more than Orion for similar ad?

With only one more week to go before ballot drop boxes close at 8 PM on Election Day, we don’t have any results on who leads in D3 yet — be sure to check in here for updates on Tuesday.

What’s sure, meanwhile, is that District 3 is currently leading among other districts. With over 10,000 ballots returned, the District is again out in the lead for voter turnout among Seattle’s seven districts. And, with a total of $1,247,788 raised between incumbent Kshama Sawant and challenger Egan Orion, D3 also leads as the most expensive and, currently, only million-dollar race in the city.

No, CHS won’t theorize about the potential correlation. Instead, we’ll take a look at some fresh numbers on spending from the campaigns and PACs, as well as an update on complaints against Orion’s campaign with the State’s Public Disclosure Commission. But first, let’s start with a poll.

New poll likely cost a lot… but what does it say? On Monday, CASE, the political arm from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, sent out results from a new district-level poll conducted by EMC Research between October 17 and October 24. It’s not clear how much this specific poll cost, but according to PDC filings, CASE has paid EMC Research nearly $240,000 for polling/research during the campaign, which includes a recent expenditure of $14,800 — so it’s safe to say this poll was not cheap.

The poll doesn’t say much specific. Respondents were not asked about candidates but rather about their feelings on the direction of the City Council as a whole, in keeping with the campaign gist of PACs like CASE and People for Seattle, who say that people want change on the Council.


DI$TRICT 3


The poll shows swings (the margin of error was +6.20 percentage points) in District 1, 6 and 4, where more people thought the Council was on the wrong track or said to have a strongly unfavorable opinion than during an earlier poll.

In District 3, however, sentiments didn’t appear to have changed much from last month, with voters split on favorable or unfavorable views on the current City Council.

As Kevin Schofield over at SCC Insight noted in his analysis of the poll: “Either the competing campaigns are cancelling each other out, or people have already made up their minds.” He also provided another asterisk: “These results don’t tell us how many people in Districts 1 and 3 (the two districts polled that have incumbent candidates) dislike the City Council as a whole, but like their own representative and are happy to vote for her again.”

Another PDC complaint for Orion: As CHS reported earlier this week, Orion has settled an ethics complaint about a $6,300 The Stranger cover wrap ad with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission For $1,000, which, campaign finance filings show, he has already paid.

Meanwhile, Orion is also facing another complaint with the PDC over his campaign office on Central District property owned at least in part by Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg. As independent journalist Erica C. Barnett first reported, Orion’s campaign failed to report paying rent on the $1.8 million former gas station the campaign uses as HQ (or reporting it as an in-kind contribution). On Tuesday, the campaign amended its expenditure reports to note it pays $500 in rent per month for September and October.

The fair market value of an empty service station-turned-office space depends on multiple variables,  including location and state of the building. At least one person, the PDC complainant, believes its fair market value is more than $500: “commercial rents in Seattle would put rent on the space over $1,000 a month,” the complaint notes.

Eisenberg points out that the Orion campaign is only renting part of the space. (About 1/3 of the square footage, floor plans on the King County assessor’s website show, is meant to be office space.) Orion’s campaign did not return requests for comment yesterday, but earlier, campaign manager Olga Laskin told CHS: “It’s not a super glamorous space (we don’t have heating and have to use the bathroom at Chuck’s next door) but we make it work!”

If the fair market value of the space turns out to be higher than $500 per month, the PDC and/or SEEC could consider the remaining dollar value as an in-kind contribution by Eisenberg, which is limited to $500 and has to be reported.

Eisenberg has donated $10 to Orion’s campaign, which leaves him with $490 total he could spend on Orion’s campaign, either in kind or in cash. Linda Kadowaki, who is a member of the LLC that Orion’s campaign pays the rent to, has also donated $10 to Orion’s campaign.

The PDC has asked Orion’s campaign to respond to the complaint by November 5, Election Day, and will assess what to do after that date.

UPDATE 9:40 AM: A reader sends in these pictures she took of the gas station office space when she was considering renting the unit earlier this summer. “I looked at the space in hopes to rent it but it was a hot mess for a long-term rental,” she writes.

What have the PACs and campaigns been up to? D3 used to be the race where PACs like People for Seattle and mostly CASE were turning much of their attention and dollars. It still is (see graph), but District 6 and 7 have taken the lead as districts with most PAC dollars spent. With $665,863 in independent expenditures, of which $596,756 was spent on pro-Orion mailers, ads, texting, canvassing, and more by various PACs, D3 now comes in third, with PAC expenditures in the district somewhat (relatively) calming recently.

Meanwhile, Orion’s campaign is ramping up its own spending. Since CHS reported last week that Orion was sitting on five times as much cash as Sawant, the campaign has spent just over $116,000, meaning Orion spent 60% of what it had spent since the campaign began in just seven days. Orion has roughly $88,000 left in his campaign war chest. Sawant, who raised over $87,000 in the past week and has spent $70,000 in the same time frame, has roughly $23,000 left.

Over at The Stranger, Eli Sanders breaks down campaigns’ and PACs’ recent spending on “digital advertising” and explains why the term is so vague. But you’ll have to head over to KUOW to learn which PAC came up with an ad that featured Sawant… and ended up on Grindr.

Did Sawant pay more than Orion for a similar ad? If it feels like this campaign has been going on for a very long time, that’s because it has. Sawant kicked off her re-election campaign in January. That’s nearly 10 months of campaigning. Orion jumped in the race in early April. Check out the graphs below, showing the fluctuations in campaign spending since their respective starts. Payroll has pretty much from the start been Sawant’s most significant expenditure (It should be for October as well, with wages reported in November), and data shows that Orion is spending about ten times more on advertising in the last couple of weeks than before.

The most interesting details are not included in these graphs but in the minutiae of financial reports. Some interesting tidbits: PDC filings show that Sawant’s campaign has spent $1,438 on amazon.com on office supplies and button making parts, Orion $458 in office supply (no buttons). Sawant likes Chop Suey, Langston Hughes and Washington Hall, among others, for events, Orion prefers Quinn’s Pub and Rachel’s Ginger Beer.

Also notable is that Sawant, according to most recent campaign finance filings, paid The Stranger $8,500 for a front-page ad in its October 23 print edition. Orion, as is now widely known after the aforementioned complaint, paid The Stranger $6,300 for a similar ad in the outlet’s valuable “Endorsements” issue (Oct. 9). Perhaps the ads get more expensive closer to the election? At the same time, an ‘Endorsement’ cover ad could be seen as more valuable. We will update this post when we hear back from The Stranger.

UPDATE: “Both campaigns were charged the same amount for the cover package ad, which was $5,500,” said The Stranger publisher Laurie Saito. “Both campaigns also purchased additional digital ads, which is probably the difference in the amounts reflected in their reported advertising expenditures.”

Ballot drop boxes close at 8 PM on Tuesday, November 5. More information on returning your ballot here.


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16 thoughts on “Di$trict 3: $500/month for a Central District office? Campaign supplies from Amazon? Why did Sawant pay more than Orion for similar ad?

  1. I have to wonder who is making these relatively minor complaints against the Orion campaign. I suspect it is someone from the Sawant campaign, but of course that can’t be proven because the complainant is anonymous.

    Has anyone filed a complaint against the Sawant campaign for illegally entering locked apartment/condo buildings to distribute campaign advertising?

    • Getting possible campaign donations in the form of free rent is not “minor”, particularly from someone with as much influence as Ian Eisenberg. It’s just not.

      • Do you feel the same about all these possible donations in the form of re-elect Sawant fundraising events that have been funded by Socialist Alternative? Clearly they have massive (potentially direct) influence over her and have also been a critical fundraising apparatus.

        I see no “in kind” entries for the costs of venues, food, drinks, speakers that were part of these events held all over the country.

        1-Jun Madison
        20-Jul Madison
        21-Jul Portland
        29-Jun Minneapolis
        27-Jul Pittsburgh
        27-Jul Boston
        3-Aug Philadelphia
        5-Oct Chicago
        18-Oct Philadelphia
        19-Oct Columbus
        19-Oct Pittsburgh
        19-Oct Cincinnati
        20-Oct Madison
        26-Oct NYC
        26-Oct Portland
        27-Oct MN

    • Bob, surely you can see how this is troubling considering Egan Orion is running on a platform of ‘accountability’. We haven’t had the chance to see much Orion’s actual work but so far his actions don’t seem to embody his words.

      • In contrast, we’ve seen a helluva lot of Sawant’s “work”. And whereas you’re just speculating on what Orion’s work *might* be like, Sawant’s work is a known; and it’s definitely not pretty.

  2. It’s no surprise that Ike is a huge fan, but he should have reported his assistance properly. These low-level gifts and patronage can quickly turn into corruption, and public accountability is key to preventing things from going under the radar.

    • What assistance? They are paying $500 monthly for an unheated tiny office space with no amenities, including a bathroom. I rent nicer Capitol Hill office spaces with heat, AC, working windows and carpeting for about $700 monthly. Sounds like that ratty space they are in is priced about right.

      • @BanDogsFromCalAnderson

        “As independent journalist Erica C. Barnett first reported, Orion’s campaign failed to report paying rent”

        Failed to report is not the same as “they didn’t pay.”

    • The ridiculous part is that the Sawant campaign actually thinks this will sway anybody’s vote. At this point everyone has made up their mind. Last-minute complaints like this are meant to embarrass and probably make Savant’s groupies feel smug and satisfied, but let’s be real- how many people are really still on the fence at this point? It won’t change any Orion supporters’ minds, and there probably aren’t any significant number of undecideds left to sway.

  3. The Amazon/Orion relationship makes perfect sense. Orion, an incredibly unqualified candidate with no respect for election ethics or rules is backed by Amazon, one of the worst corporate polluters on the planet with a shameful record of exploiting their employees. Together they are actively trying to steal the democratic process from the voters of Seattle and OUR election. Orion is just another corporate sock puppet candidate.

    • “…backed by Amazon, one of the worst corporate polluters on the planet…”

      Hmm, do you have any data sources to back up that biased opinion? Because the list I found here – https://www.peri.umass.edu/combined-toxic-100-greenhouse-100-indexes-current – doesn’t even have Amazon on it.

      Also, if Amazon is so evil, why is Sawant spending $1400 with them? Seems a little hypocritical; don’t ya think? Sounds like she only has a problem with them when it suits the advancement of her political agenda.

      Sawant is just another Socialist Party sock puppet/do-nothing political official.

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