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Report finds unions may have broken ‘Honest Elections Law’

Labor unions may have broken the Initiative 122 law in contributing to candidates in the 2017 election. (MyNorthwest)

In 2015, Seattle voters passed Initiative 122, otherwise known as the friendly-named “Honest Elections Law.” But it may have led to the opposite effect.

RELATED: Report suggests Seattle’s Democracy Vouchers are a bust

Olympia-based think tank Freedom Foundation reviewed finance records from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) and found that multiple labor unions may have broken the law in contributing to candidates in the 2017 election.

“The intent of the law is to prevent organizations that have an interest in doing business with the city from having undue influence on city hall,” said Freedom Foundation’s Director of Labor Policy Maxford Nelsen, joining KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “If that’s the intent here, that’s exactly why these labor unions are giving to candidates. To have influence over the collective bargaining relationship they have with the city.”

Overall, the goal of the initiative remains “reducing the influence of money, ensuring accountability, and preventing corruption in City of Seattle government.” It primarily made headlines for the democracy voucher program, in which voters can potentially receive four $25 vouchers to contribute to whatever candidates they choose. What’s at issue here is another part of the law that prohibits campaign contributions for City contractors and their PACs.

Candidates cannot accept contributions from people or entities who earned upwards of $250,000 as a result of a contractual relationship with the City.

“There were eight labor unions that we identified that received more than $250,000 in union dues and fees collected by the city under a contract,” said Nelsen. “They also gave money to city candidates in 2017. I’m at a loss to see why these contributions by these labor unions were not illegally made.”

Unions may not be playing by the rules in ‘Honest Elections Law’

Those who may have benefited from such contributions include Mayor Jenny Durkan, City Attorney Pete Holmes, and City Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda, among others. At this point, the Freedom Foundation’s findings have been submitted to the SEEC, who oversee enforcement and have the ability to initiate an investigation.

“This was a bad law. It forces speech, and it stops speech,” Jason noted.

“If everyone else is going by the rules except for the unions, it gives them even more of a leg up in influencing politicians to push the things they want to push.”

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