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.
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.
This week was the deadline for Council members to file their annual financial disclosure forms. Council member Sawant’s filing this year adds additional information than it did in the past, and in so doing challenges us to “follow the money.” You won’t like where it goes.