The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission should dismiss a complaint against mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan's campaign related to bans on donations from city contractors and companies that have lobbied the city, the commission's executive director ...and more »
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission’s executive director says it should dismiss a complaint against mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan’s campaign.
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission should dismiss a complaint against mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan’s campaign related to bans on donations from city contractors and companies that have lobbied the city, the commission’s executive director says.
“The public interest is not served by holding campaigns to a standard of perfection,” Wayne Barnett said in a memo to the commission, which will consider the matter at a special meeting Thursday.
The complaint accused Durkan’s campaign of violating provisions of Honest Elections Seattle, approved by voters in 2015 as Initiative 122.
It was filed this month by three people who worked for I-122, including Estevan Muñoz-Howard, who has endorsed Durkan rival Cary Moon in the Nov. 7 election and donated to her campaign.
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A provision in Honest Elections Seattle bars candidates from accepting contributions from companies paid more than $250,000 as city contractors over the past two years.
The complaint said Durkan’s campaign violated that provision by accepting $500 contributions from Microsoft and Ash Grove Cement.
The Microsoft contribution was indeed prohibited, according to Barnett. The Durkan campaign refunded it Oct. 2 after The Seattle Times asked about it.
Ash Grove Cement was on an elections-commission list of companies that had received more than $250,000 from the city. But its contribution wasn’t prohibited because the money consisted exclusively of energy-conservation rebates, Barnett said.
A challenge is that the city has yet to develop a definitive list of its major contractors.
Another Honest Elections Seattle provision bars candidates from accepting contributions from companies that have spent more than $5,000 on city lobbyists over the past year.
The complaint said Durkan’s campaign had violated that provision by accepting donations from Alfred Clise, an owner of Clise Properties; Paul Allen, an owner of City Investors LLC; and Seattle Hospitality for Progress, an organization affiliated with the Washington Hospitality Association.
The Alfred Clise contribution wasn’t prohibited, because he isn’t the majority owner of Clise Properties, Barnett said.
“There is no clear-cut answer” on the Allen and Seattle Hospitality for Progress contributions, he said.
Because Allen is the majority owner of City Investors LLC, Seattle election rules say he and the company should be treated as the same donor with regard to contribution caps.
Likewise, because the two hospitality groups are affiliated with each other, the rules say they should be treated as the same donor with regard to contribution caps.
But it’s unclear whether Allen and his company and the two hospitality groups should be treated as the same entity with regard to Honest Elections Seattle, Barnett said in his memo.
“There is one clear violation of the new limits on contributions present in this case out of the 3,241 contributors” to Durkan, he said, describing the $500 from Microsoft as .0007 percent of what the campaign has raised overall.
Durkan’s campaign “also took appropriate actions by promptly returning the contribution from Microsoft once it was brought to their attention,” Barnett added.
“This is not a case where (the campaign) was not exercising care in carrying out its responsibilities under the new law.”
Back in 2015, I-122 backers said the measure would help “get big money out of politics,” in part by “banning campaign contributions by city contractors and entities using paid lobbyists.”
And the law may be having some effect: Though they have similar endorsers, Durkan has received fewer contributions from businesses than former Mayor Ed Murray did in 2013.
The law doesn’t explicitly bar donations from individual leaders at companies doing work for and lobbying the city.
Both Durkan and Moon have received contributions from such people.
The law also doesn’t stop any companies from giving unlimited sums to political-action committees that spend money independently for or against candidates.
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