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Paying $1K fine, Orion settles ethics complaint over Stranger cover ad

(Image: SEEC)

District 3 challenger Egan Orion has opted to pay a $1,000 fine to settle a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission complaint over his campaign’s purchase of a controversial $6,300 “wrapper” ad on The Stranger’s October 9th endorsement edition.

The campaign says it is also addressing an issue over campaign finance reporting for its Central District office.

The advertising complaint was sparked by the decision to include “sponsor identification” information inside the Stranger edition — not on the cover as required by the Seattle Elections Code.

The ad sparked controversy by making it appear to some that Orion had won the alternative media outlet’s coveted endorsement. But inside, the paper again endorsed incumbent Kshama Sawant.

“‘Paid Advertisement’ ran on the ad and the disclaimer was on the full page ad, but we made a mistake and we own it,” Orion campaign manager Olga Laskin tells CHS.

“We settled this issue with the SEEC so that we can get back to focusing on issues important to District 3 voters, like the homelessness crisis, affordability, transportation, and the climate crisis.”

“Things are moving fast on the campaign,” she added.

Stranger writer Chase Burns who filed a separate complaint with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission over the ad in his employer’s publication, tells CHS he is “glad the SEEC agrees that the Egan for Seattle sponsor ID should have been on the first page of the ad.”

“I think Mike McGinn said it well on KUOW yesterday: ‘This is really inappropriate behavior from the Orion campaign and the election regulators should come down hard on this because a small fine isn’t going to deter anybody. They’ll just do it again because that Stranger cover is worth a lot, speaking from experience,'” Burns wrote.

Stranger publisher Laurie Saito says the Orion campaign “had no prior knowledge of what the Stranger cover would look like.”

She also backed up her writer’s choice to file the complaint. “Chase’s decision to file a complaint regarding the missing sponsor ID on the cover ad is in line with our ongoing reporting on political ad transparency,” Saito writes. “I do not disagree with one of our reporters for pointing out the infraction, even if it was on one of the Stranger’s own advertisers.”

Saito also said the incident won’t result in any policy changes related to Stranger political ad sales “as no company policies were broken in this instance.”

Laskin, meanwhile, said the separate state PDC complaint over the ad is also “being settled.” We’ve checked in with the commission to learn more. UPDATE: “We will review the complaint in light of SEEC’s decision and determine whether additional action is warranted,” a spokesperson tells CHS.

Orion’s isn’t the only campaign in the historically expensive D3 race to face an inquiry over an ethics complaint. In March, complaints related to the political group Socialist Alternative and its influence in Sawant’s office were dismissed by the SEEC.

(Image: CHS)

Orion, meanwhile, is also facing another complaint over his campaign office on Central District property owned by Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg.

After CHS’s report about the office, a reader noticed the state’s PDC disclosure information for Orion’s campaign did not include either an expense for renting the space or a contribution for an in-kind donation.

Laskin says the issue “was an oversight on the part of our treasurer” and that the campaign’s reporting is being amended.

For those hungry to add more to their decision in the D3 race than campaign funding and ethics complaints, Friday night will bring another area candidate forum with local issues at the center of discussion.

The Young Voters League and the Central Area Collaborative will host the Showdown in Africatown Voter Forum 2019 Friday starting at 7 PM at the Central Area Senior Center. Both Sawant and Orion are confirmed to attend, according to organizers.

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46 thoughts on “Paying $1K fine, Orion settles ethics complaint over Stranger cover ad

  1. egan orion (i guess that’s the current name he’s using. he seems to change it up often) is too dishonest for my vote. and he’s in bed with big business and amazon. NO THANK YOU!

    • The fine was because the ad that the Orion campaign submitted to The Stranger didn’t say “Paid for by Egan Orion” on the bottom of it. Minor violation, minor fine.

      • Yes, but the paper should have known better. This is related to the Facebook testimony on The Other Capitol Hill this week, where congress was questioning whether Facebook is responsible for the content of their advertising.

      • Sure, but whether we like it or not, the SEEC currently only has jurisdiction to hold campaigns accountable to elections laws, not newspapers.

        My read: The ads team did a quick glance, thought it looked like every other Orion campaign ad they’ve seen and ran with it. When it went to print someone from their writers team got all pissy, because well, that what The Stranger writers do these days. Not a good look for them and let’s be honest, it’s not exactly the “A team” working over at The Stranger. While we’re being real, it was dumb, completely avoidable slip-up by the Orion campaign. One they rightfully got a slap on the wrist for.

      • Sasha is spot on! Your dismissive comments of an incredibly descriptive move is very Trumpian. Pure slime by Orion. Was really hoping for better from Orion.

      • BK, you do realize that the full-page ad that was also included in the same ad buy *did* have the sponsor ID on it. Trying to turn this into something more nefarious than what it really is says more about you than anything else. Ask yourself this: Is there a track record of his campaign doing this? Did they acknowledge the mistake? Did they own the consequences? Did they promise to put measures in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

        People (and campaigns) make mistakes and IMO there was nothing “slimy” with the way the Orion campaign handled theirs.

      • “ Pure slime by Orion. Was really hoping for better from Orion.”
        Nah, you really weren’t. You were “really hoping” for practically anything, to blow it up into a federal case, to rationalize all the ridiculous innuendo and jumping to unfounded conclusions that all the Sawant supporters have been getting their panties in a wad about. But this is all you have right now, so you have to work with whatever you have to get all pissy about.

    • I think the Stranger def has culpability… Right there it says …

      Stranger publisher Laurie Saito says the Orion campaign “had no prior knowledge of what the Stranger cover would look like.”

      To Brian’s comment, that Orion’s team had a “quick glance” is wrong. They didn’t. The Stranger printed it, possibly with knowledge of breaking the rules, then they called Orion out for it.

      • My bad for not explicitly saying it but I meant the Stranger’s ad team. Should have typed it out like this:

        “The Stranger’s ad team did a quick glance, thought it looked like every other Orion campaign ad…”

        Personally I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, just like I am with the Orion campaign, and assuming it’s an honest mistake.

    • If you never leave your house and buy everything from Amazon and food/grocery delivery peeps I can see how that would be true for you. It’s totally still around.

  2. Seems odd that a staff-member of a print rag that is failing miserably, and likely has issues keeping advertisers, would throw Egan, a customer of theirs who put in a full page advertisement, under the proverbial bus for a minor text violation of the SEEC that The Stranger should have proofed in the first place, had they actually been a reputable ‘paper’.

    If that’s how they treat their customers, in no way would I ever want to advertise with them, much less support this failed rag tag of a paper.

    • Eh, rules are rules. The Orion campaign made a mistake, owned up to it, and moved on. Going forward I’m sure his campaign will continue to buy prints ads in The Stranger because even though the paper has lost much of it’s influence, it still does reach some key demographics.

    • Exactly. This is a cheap political shot on the part of the Stranger writer. Yes, the Orion campaign was technically wrong, but this is the most minor of violations.

      Anyone who knows anything about Seattle media knows that the Stranger would never endorse Orion. But their endorsements are useful, because almost always they tell me who not to vote for!

      The Stranger still exists only because of all the pot advertising revenue it brings in.

    • How dare they not stand up for political deception just cause they make a buck from the campaign. Who else engages in this type of behavior? It’s not a minor oversight, it’s a critical piece of information not included to precent misrepresentation. It’s not one political candidates should make.

    • Seems odd that a staff-member of a print rag that is failing miserably…

      Trump, is that you? At least you could have referenced it as the “Failing Seattle Times” to complete the effect!

      Stranger has a circulation of close to 90,000. Seattle Times is close to 230,000 for reference. Considering the Times is distributed well beyond the Seattle city limits, I would hardly call that “failing miserably”.

  3. This won’t change anybody’s mind. It will only convince the Sawant devotees that Orion is the perfect embodiment of evil, but they already think that. They’ll expect it to sway hundreds of voters to Sawant. Doubt it.

  4. McGinn is living in his campaign, was is 10 years ago, when the Stranger was falling off in importance. Now, the Stranger is totally unimportant. Egan wasted his money on this ad. I haven’t seen a Stranger in years. I thought the print edition died a long time ago.

  5. Minor thing huh? Something to simply own up to?

    Which people really don’t mind political ads that hide who bought them? Especially when they’re on or around the cover of a news publication with large circulation numbers in the District of that candidate election.

    • “Which people really don’t mind political ads that hide who bought them?”

      It wasn’t hidden; it was called out on the subsequent pages of the ad. The campaign staff that placed the ad missed putting it on the part of the ad on the cover. If readers of The Stranger can’t be bothered to look further than the front cover then I’d be more worried about what that says about its readers and their future as a paper.

      As other commenters have said, this was an oversight and fairly minor. If it had been otherwise the fine would have been higher and with greater consequences.

  6. *sniff sniff* do you smell that? That what BS smells like at The Stranger. Zero ethics in their journalism, took money for an ad and then makes the client pay a fine for their own doing. I remember The Stranger in the 90s when I was a teenager, reading about local entertainment and culture. Now it’s a hate filled political trash outlet. It’s like they are competing with Breibart for most hate filled trash. Still works well as free kitty litter box liner, fire starter for camping and pee training a dog…

    • I do smell the BS, that was great spin there ‘ethics’. Sounds like maybe you never found yourself being seen in the I saw you section :). At least you learned a bit about sex right? I’m sorry as you got older you became bitter. It sounds like we’ve been exposed to the stranger for around the same time. It’s not my go to paper, but it covers things the other papers do not and still connects people to art, music and theater. It has it’s place in the local news hard copy issues and as a long term resident, I’m glad it’s still here.

      What’s your spin for facebook taking money for political ads in which the disclosure of source and funding is not transparent? Same thing? Orion is just innocently posting ads, like ooopsie! Nothing bad could happen from that I’m sure…

      • The Orion team made a campaign violation, got called out for it, and paid a fine. FWIW, I personally think the same should happen to organizations that post on Facebook without providing a financial disclosure. Also think there should be recourse against platforms such as Facebook, or in this case The Stranger, that profit from/promote ads that violate our ethics codes/lobbying regulations.

      • The ultimate responsibility should be the campaign, so they acknowledge the act and don’t do it again. But I think the paper should also get a small fine too.

  7. This is a small oversight and the Orion campaign is paying the fine. Not nefarious, it wasn’t misconstrued who paid for it.

    Remember when Kshama Sawant was at the Democratic Convention telling people to vote for Jill Stein and not Hillary? Pretty cool Kshama.

  8. egan orion (seriously.. is that his most current name? he seems to change it so often. probably trying to run from his lifetime history of corruption) will lose anyway, despite big business pouring so much money into his campaign. i almost feel sorry for him but he’s just a puppet.

  9. the same argument goes for ALL print publications. stop sounding like a trumpette and trying to distract us from the fact that Egor Orien is sponsored by big business and is full of corruption.

    • It must make life SO much easier for you when you can reduce everyone to a one-dimensional caricature. Everything is black or white, nothing nuanced, and neatly all or nothing so your little punkin head doesn’t get overworked and overwhelmed with complexities. Bless your heart.

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