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Sawant faces ethics violations for ‘Tax Amazon’ campaign

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (KIRO 7)

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission filed official charges against Kshama Sawant Monday, accusing her of using her position and resources as a city councilmember to promote a ballot measure.

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This stems from Sawant’s “Tax Amazon” push, a campaign she intends to translate into a November 2020 ballot measure.

According to charging documents — first reported on by SCC Insight’s Kevin Schofield — Sawant violated the city’s ethics code for “the use of City resources for other than a City purpose, when she posted hyperlinks to materials on City Council web site promoting a ballot initiative,” as well as using city resources to “promote or oppose” a ballot measure.

While those are currently the only charges Sawant faces, Schofield points out that her Tax Amazon campaign may also be violating a handful of other statutes. That includes hosting details about the campaign on her city council website, using her official city email account to promote the initiative, and more.

“Under both Seattle and state law, public resources may not be used to organize campaigns for ballot initiatives. Sawant is doing precisely that,” said Schofield.

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She is also soliciting contributions for the Tax Amazon initiative, despite failing to register with Washington state’s Public Disclosure Commission and the SEEC within the required two weeks of officially organizing (a clock that started ticking on Jan. 25). That means there’s no public way to monitor how and where the campaign is taking in funds.

“It was also required to register a bank depository for campaign fund contributions, and it has not done that either,” Schofield noted.

Sawant responded to the charges Thursday.

“I’m disappointed to see this complaint filed against my office and our movement,” she said in a written statement. “It’s shameful that while big business has license to run amok trying to bully or buy politicians – just look at our last election cycle – working people have to follow the most onerous of restrictions.”

A hearing on charges against Sawant from the SEEC is set for March 4.

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