“Who is funding our local elections?”
If you ask D3 city council candidates Egan Orion and incumbent Kshama Sawant, they’ll tell you to look in very different directions for the answer to the question that has become a flashpoint overshadowing other issues in this year’s election.
From the start, Sawant said the election would be a referendum on “who runs Seattle: Amazon and big business, or working people.”
Yesterday, a week after Amazon poured over $1M into the city council election, Orion launched a new ad with a voiceover leveling a de facto response to Sawant’s early rallying cry: ”Who has a voice in City Hall? The Socialist Alternative party or your neighbors right here in Seattle?”
CHS takes a closer look at the ad, plus, give you some campaign war chest updates as well as more insight into what exactly candidates are spending their money on, below.
Orion wants to talk about campaign finance too: Orion’s new ad, in which he touts his local support, is titled “Who is funding our local elections?”
Some, surely, would respond “Amazon,” but the 30-second clip doesn’t mention the cash the corporate behemoth and others have pumped in local elections via CASE, the political arm of the Chamber of Commerce, which has supported Orion with over $300,000 in independent expenditures.
The ad contrasts Orion, who has redeemed over 5,000 Democracy Vouchers (with close to 9,000 vouchers designated to the campaign) with Sawant, who did not participate in the program. The ad also suggests Sawant doesn’t have as much support from within the city and district as Orion.
To what extent that’s true depends on how you look at it. 91% of Orion’s campaign contributors live in Seattle, to Sawant’s 60%, and 58% live in District 3, to Sawant’s 41%. Most of Orion’s funds, $230,206, come from within D3, about double of what Sawant has raised from within the district, $112,848. That’s respectively 60% and 27% of their raised totals. But what the ad doesn’t say is that Sawant has 864 more donors from within the district than Orion.
Amazon’s donation also (kind of) benefits Sawant: Though it is likely that Amazon’s $1M contribution to CASE will benefit Orion greatly (he’s one of CASE’s largest beneficiary with $338,843 spent on his behalf, though Heidi Wills in D6 has taken the top spot thanks to recent $312,606 worth of CASE expenditures on her behalf) the news worked somewhat in her favor as well. Since the announcement of Amazon’s contribution, Sawant’s campaign has raised over $17,000, according to Public Disclosure Commission data.
“EMERGENCY”? As it turns out, the (all-caps included) “EMERGENCY: Amazon drops a $1 million bomb” fundraising email Sawant’s campaign sent out last week was not so much hyperbole as necessity. Data show that Sawant had and has little cash on hand. As of yesterday, Sawant had spent $381,824 of her total $419,813 raised. Orion has spent $190,593 of his $380,334, meaning he is sitting on five times as much cash as Sawant heading into the last two weeks of this election (see graph).
What are the candidates spending their money on? Sawant and Orion have both spent upwards of 80k from early September until last week on their campaign. Orion spent about $8,000 more than Sawant, $89,161. Orion’s highest cost is advertising, roughly $30,400 from September through mid-October, mostly on TV ads on Comcast Premium, “CMDY”, CNN, and MSNBC. Orion spent twice as much as Sawant on flyers and mail.
Sawant spends most of her funds on her campaign staff of over 14 people, over $46,000 in total (see graph). Another significant cost is software the campaign uses for, among other things, donations.
Orion has also paid canvassers in the last couple of weeks, for a total of $1,200 (campaign staff said they pay student canvassers $15/hr and two field organizers $18.75/hr). PDC filings also show Orion has hired Joe Mirabella, former communications director for Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, for communications consulting (for $3,000).
What have the PACS been up to since last week? The Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) — the Chamber of Commerce’s PAC — has spent $18,880 in direct mail for Orion this last week, as well as a couple of hundred dollars on print and online ads. The Seattle Fire Fighters PAC spent $7,103.07 on mailers for Orion, and just over $600 in print and online advertising.
Civic Alliance for A Progressive Economy (CAPE) — a Political Action Committee formed by the group Working Washington — has been getting more active in the last stretches of the election, with much of the PAC’s attention going to supporting Dan Strauss, Heidi Wills’ opponent in District 6, as well as other opponents of CASE-backed candidates. Comparatively, CAPE is not spending much in D3, with $1,036 on pro-Sawant texts in the past week.
Stay tuned for more Di$trict 3 updates next week, and an in-depth look into how the campaign’s spending habits have changed since the campaign began.
- 10/23/19: Orion drops new ad about campaign funding, Sawant has cash ‘EMERGENCY‘
- 10/16/19: Amazon pumps over $1M into Seattle elections — What it means for District 3
- 10/9/19: 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 Elections 2019 coverage
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