Following my January article documenting the extent to which the political organization Socialist Alternative directs the actions of Council member Kshama Sawant in her official capacity as a City Council member, two (substantially similar) ethics complaints were filed with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission: one by an anonymous District 3 voter, and one by District 3 Council candidate Logan Bowers. This afternoon, SEEC Executive Director Wayne Barnett sent a letter to those parties (with copies to journalists, including myself) announcing that he is dismissing those complaints and explaining his reasoning.
Tonight’s Council committee hearing lasted for two and a half hours. At the end, a resolution was voted out of committee — barely — but the future of Mayor Durkan’s nomination to fill the position of Director of the Human Services Department is as murky as ever.
I urge you to read the full version of this story, because it provides important context to understand why Sawant and Socialist Alternative are doing these things — and to make sense of Socialist Alternative’s jargon-heavy documents. But if you really can’t spare the time to do so, here’s the tl;dr version.
Internal documents from Socialist Alternative, many of which were written over the past two years during a period when its leadership was factionalized and infighting, show the extent to which Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant has turned over decision-making for her City Council duties to the leadership of Socialist Alternative. That includes deciding how Sawant will vote on matters before the Council, as well as staffing decisions for her Council office — and firing people who work for Sawant on the city payroll.
SCC Insight has obtained a collection of internal documents from Socialist Alternative that were written over the past three years. Those documents provide a unique view into the organization’s internal — and sometimes acrimonious — debates on a wide range of topics, including Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the Democratic Party, Donald Trump, the Black Lives Matter movement, its own organizational structure, and Seattle politics. But they also reveal the extent to which Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a leading member of the organization, has handed over her Council responsibilities to Socialist Alternative – including deciding how to vote on items before the Council, and even the hiring and firing of government employees working in her office in City Hall. Beyond the fact that she has never disclosed to her constituents in District 3 that she has ceded these duties to Socialist Alternative, having done so likely violates several provisions of the city’s Ethics Code for government officials.
I strongly encourage you to read the entire article below, to help you understand the context behind the Socialist Alternative documents. But if you really don’t have the time or the patience for that, here’s the tl;dr version of this article. Or, just skip down to the discussion of the most problematic aspects of Councilmember Sawant’s relationship with Socialist Alternative.
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission found Councilmember Sawant’s use of the city council’s copy machine during the Head Tax debate did not violate Seattle ethics rules, despite an appeal heard last week.
(update below – 9/18/17)
Last month the two SPD officers who shot Che Taylor last year sued Council member Kshama Sawant for defamation. This morning, their lawyers filed a motion claiming that Sawant has missed the deadline to respond and thus should lose the case by default.
Council member Kshama Sawant, her staff, her Socialist Alternative party, and their partner organizations have done some incredible work over the past several weeks in organizing rallies and protests to give voice to opposition to President Trump’s most abhorrent executive orders and policies. But last week she turned the rhetoric knob to 11, and in so doing argued for some actions that are not just ill-conceived but illegal, dangerous to public safety, and a threat to one of the most important foundations of our democracy. And that places her in clear and direct violation of her duties and responsibilities as a City Council member.
With the Council still in recess, there isn’t much in the way of news coverage, but a couple things have popped onto the radar this morning.
While it’s obvious that Council member Kshama Sawant is working from a different playbook than all of her colleagues on the Seattle City Council, most people don’t understand the strategy that drives her activities. Fortunately, she explained it recently in a public talk.