Rantz: Kshama Sawant’s campaign still relies on big, out-of-town donors

Mar 19, 2019, 5:44 AM
kshama sawant...
(KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s career has been branded on her representation of the working class. But behind the scenes, she builds power by relying on wealthy donors who don’t even live in her district. Indeed, a review of the latest donor data shows her biggest donors don’t even live in Washington.

Related: Bowers looking to ‘root out corruption’ with Sawant ethics complaint

The Public Disclosure Commission lists the top 45 big donors to every campaign. Of Sawant’s top 45 donations, 26 come from either out-of-state supporters or those who clearly live out of the district. Of the remaining 19, it’s unclear how many live in her district, as the site breaks down donations via city, instead of zip code, and simply list “Seattle” for the city. But further data breakdowns give a better look.

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) lists a whopping 50 percent of her campaign donors living outside city limits, while only 16 percent live in her district. While it’s early, this data indicates more of a reliance on outside money than her 2015 numbers suggested.

Contrast her donations with her biggest opponent, Logan Bowers, who has 37 percent of campaign donations coming from his district and just 20 percent from outside city limits.

Unlike her opponents, Sawant declined to participate in the Democracy Vouchers program — which she claims to support (so long as she doesn’t have to participate). Instead, she is opting to rely on wealthy donors to fund her campaign.

This donation reality should pose problems for the campaign.

Sawant has loyally stuck with a line that she is “not accountable to … the wealthy” but she sure is cashing a bunch of $500 checks from the wealthy. When other politicians do it, she labels them as beholden to the wealthy. When she does it? Well, it’s supposed to be ignored or forgiven.

Sawant’s popularity has already taken a severe hit, after her disastrous handling of the job-killing head tax. Once reliable supporters — many unions and union members — have ditched Sawant. She’s also admitted that unless you’re with Socialist Alternative, a politically-oriented cult that requires you pay membership dues, she’s not going to work for you. She’s currently facing two ethics complaints due to her ties with SA.

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Rantz: Kshama Sawant’s campaign still relies on big, out-of-town donors