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Di$trict 3: Independent expenditures now total more than $1M and favor Orion. Plus: Dale Chihuly, Scott Lindsay, Lyft and Seattle Fire Fighters join the fray

With ballots landing in mailboxes in just a couple of weeks and the November 5 General Election just a month away, campaigns for City Council are heating up — and so is the independent spending from Political Action Committees, which has soared to unprecedented heights.

For the final weeks of the run for the District 3 seat, CHS will keep you updated on the dollars with regular updates dedicated to looking at campaign finances. We’ll report where campaign money — whether from PACs or the candidates’ campaign coffers — comes from, and how it is spent.

With over $1 million raised in total and the two candidates headed to the general election with hundreds of thousands of dollars in their campaign coffers, the District 3 race keeps its top spot as the most expensive in the city. Incumbent Kshama Sawant has raised a total of $374,108; challenger Egan Orion tallied $296,728. 

Some notable recent Orion backers include the famed glass artist Dale Chihuly and his wife who donated $500 each, and Scott Lindsay, a former adviser to Ed Murray and father of the “Seattle is Dying” trope. 

Lindsay (who listed his 2012-2014 employer, according to SEEC filings) unsuccessfully challenged city attorney Pete Holmes in 2017 and, backed by business and neighborhood groups, authored the now-famous “System Failure” report at the core of the controversial Seattle is Dying documentary aired on Sinclair stations.

But the $1,500 from Chihuly and co were just a fraction of the money Orion was able to raise in the last few weeks.

In August, Orion received over $95,000 in contributions, and he has raised over $115,000 more in the last month. While Sawant, who didn’t participate in the Democracy Voucher program, has raised more in total, filings show Orion has overshadowed the incumbent when it comes to recent fundraising. In August, Sawant took in $57,000 and had around $67,00 more come in in the last four to five weeks.

Orion can also benefit from third parties fueling his election efforts. Political Action Committees have already spent $282,501 on Orion’s behalf in both the primary and general. Sawant has no PAC sponsors except Civic Alliance for A Progressive Economy, which has spent $91.24 on her behalf.

Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission data show that with $111,398 already spent on his behalf in the general election, Orion is the candidate receiving the highest amount of independent expenditure dollars. (see graph). Those dollars partly come from a PAC that has just recently joined the chorus of (more conservative-leaning) PACs supporting Orion. Just since early September, the Seattle Firefighters PAC has spent $57,744 on his behalf, on mailing and mostly on digital advertising (a whopping $37,000).

For now, that’s the most any PAC has spent in the general election city-wide. The PAC also supports Mark Solomon, Heidi Wills, Alex Pedersen, and Debora Juarez in other city races, which follows the endorsements of other PACs such as CASE, the political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, People for Seattle as well as The Seattle Times’ editorial board.

Overall, CASE, People for Seattle and other PACs have already spent over a million dollars in this year’s city elections, $1,217,542, according to Seattle’s Ethics and Elections Commission. That number is already nearly double the total independent expenditures for council elections in 2015 and will likely rise in the coming weeks.

Citywide Council member Lorena González has recently drafted legislation that would rein in PACs power by limiting donations to $5,000 per person or corporation. The legislation won’t come before the Council until 2020.

This means companies like the San Francisco-based ride-hailing corporation Lyft can still pour $25,000 in the coffers of CASE, the chamber’s PAC primarily bankrolled by Amazon and other corporations like Comcast, Expedia, AT&T, Puget Sound Energy, Alaska Airlines as well as the Washington Association of Realtors. Rachel Marshall of Rachel’s Ginger Beer, where Orion held his primary election night party, has contributed $1,000 to CASE.

Orion was boosted by more than $155,000 from CASE during the primary, the most substantial outside spending in the city. Now, with Orion facing incumbent and socialist Kshama Sawant directly, CASE has spent over $53,000 so far on Orion in the general, more than it has on any other candidate in the general. Just in the last two weeks, it has spent over $42,000 on canvassing and mailing for Orion.

Still, filings with the Public Disclosure Commission show that Orion’s campaign heavily bets on mailers. It has spent $29,128 on mail in August, more than double than what Sawant spent on it that month ($13,913.68).  PACs spent an additional $6,390.33 on Orion mailers in August.

Filings with the PDC show that while mailers are Orion’s most significant expenditure for that month, Sawant focuses on people. She is known to have a swarm of volunteers, and according to PDC filings, most of Sawant’s campaign expenses center on paying staffers, more than 14. (see graph). PDC filings show that Sawant pays employees an average of $1,929, Orion $1,222.63.

We’ll have more for you on the campaign’s shifting and — we’d bet — increasing expenditures for September when those reports roll in.

You can read all of CHS’s Election 2019 coverage here.

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33 thoughts on “Di$trict 3: Independent expenditures now total more than $1M and favor Orion. Plus: Dale Chihuly, Scott Lindsay, Lyft and Seattle Fire Fighters join the fray” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Strange article. It briefly mentions Sawant has raised significantly more money. Then it does not mention the sources of Sawant’s funding but instead focused on Orien’s supporters, some of whom are not popular.

    Seems like a biased article.

    • “Minions?” Jeeze. Ya know, just because some of your neighbors have a more progressive or socialist vision of what Seattle could be does not make them “minions”.

      Dehumanizing those who disagree with you is a lazy way to maintain a cloistered worldview. Doorknocking is the cornerstone of American grassroots organizing and an opportunity to understand the perspective of those with whom you disagree. Next time, try having a conversation and getting to know a “minion,” even if you disagree with them.

      • Invading a building isn’t “door knocking”. And Sawant’s said all you need to know about her and her politics; hard to see what you’d gain from talking to one of her–yes–minions. Sawant’s silly ‘movement’ has brought in people from around the country to campaign for her. Nothing local about that.

      • And…look at the expenditures of both campaigns. Sawant’s major expense? “Payroll”.

        Paying people to come from out-of-state to campaign for you, sure ’nuff ain’t “grassroots”. (Nor is putting your husband on the payroll, as Kshama has done.)

      • Funny. Dehumanizing those who disagree with you has been a Sawant tactic since Day 1 and remains her primary message. Glass houses, throwing stones, etc…

      • Wholeheartedly agree with you on this calanderson. So why does sawant demonize all white people that live in the central district, all 50,000 amazon employees that live in the seattle area, and any one who makes over $15 an hour?

    • I think that the word “minions” exactly describes Sawant’s supporters. They are often rabid and cheer her every pronouncement in a knee-jerk fashion (reminiscent of Trumps’ rallies). And when they arrogantly enter private buildings, it is not “old-fashioned doorknocking,” it is trespassing.

  2. Egan Orion will forever be bent over for Bezos and his Amazombies. I hope he fails,we don’t need more Wonder Bread on the council.

    • And…look at the expenditures of both campaigns. Sawant’s major expense? “Payroll”.

      Paying people to come from out-of-state to campaign for you, sure ’nuff ain’t “grassroots”. (Nor is putting your husband on the payroll, as Kshama has done.)

      • What makes you say her staffers are from out of state? I know one who is very much a long time Seattle resident. I’m pretty sure most of not all of her staff are from here. Are you really complaining about someone paying the people who work for them? So strange.

    • It doesn’t matter how many times you Sawant dittoheads try to tar Orion with the characterization of being on the hook for Bezos or whoever- it doesn’t make it true. “Independent” expenditures are exactly that. Independent. It doesn’t obligate him to anything and in fact you have exactly ZERO proof that he’s obligated to Bezos or anybody else for that matter. Keep repeating it all you want, it doesn’t make it true. But good for you for using The Big Lie technique the Nazis were so fond of.

      • Question: what do you think Amazon’s motive is for contributing to Orion’s campaign? And do you think Amazon has savvy money management, or that they would give away chunks of cash with no return on their investment?

      • Two points:
        1. It doesn’t matter what Amazon’s motives are. It still doesn’t obligate Orion to listen to them. That’s the emitiré pint here. And you still have no proof he’s listening to them. All he has to do is say “thank you”, take the money, and do whatever he intended to do anyway. Which they may or may not like.
        2. Amazon may very well see Orion as “lesser of 2 evils”. They may not particularly care for him at all, but guess what? I’ll bet you dollars-to-donuts they REALLY don’t like Savant. Because her answer to *everything* is “TAX AMAZON!”. So given those choices, WTF do you think they’d do? They may think Orion will at least listen to them. They know Savant never will. Easy choice, wouldn’t you say? Still doesn’t mean they’ll get s**t out of Orion, but with Savant it would be worse.
        It’s not complicated.

    • How many of those “Amazombies” keep your business afloat? Dissing a huge potential customer pool doesn’t sound like the best marketing practice.

  3. Although this article says that Kshama Sawant has raised more campaign contributions ($374,108) than Egan Orion t$296,728), the writer fails to mention that 74% of Sawant’s contributions are not even from District 3 and 47% are from outside Seattle. Compare this to Eagan with 61% from District 3 and 91% from all Seattle districts!
    We are supposed to be electing a city council member to represent Seattle’s District 3.

      • I just watched 2 young woman staying at the air b&b across from my house walk out the door with a bunch of sawant fliers and a clipboard heading out to go door to door.
        I asked them where they were from and they told me Minnesota, they are getting paid to do this.
        sawant and her army or supporters is a big smoke and mirrors game.
        I wonder if they are getting paid $15 an hour?

  4. reading comments about this whackadoodle D3 city council races illustrates crystal clear how much Seattleites DESPISE one another.

    Have fun tearing each other to pieces. I’m sure they’ll have a good chuckle over at Fox news about it all.

    • Right. Because in every OTHER city in the US, it’s all unicorns and rainbows. There’s only squabbling like this in Seattle. Everywhere else, everyone gets along.
      Is that your story?

    • Many of these comments backing Orion come from trolls paid for by Amazon and Chamber backed PACs while the rest are the same old boring Dori Monson following idealogues that spend the majority of their free time spewing alarmist, hateful rhetoric on any website that mentions Sawant. Don’t let these paid trolls sway your opinion of the political atmosphere in Seattle. The comments are really skewed toward the right ring fringe masquerading as liberals.