The Seattle politician that pushes for equality in a fast-growing city might not be playing at the same level as her peers on the campaign trail.
Kshama Sawant, the outspoken socialist on the Seattle City Council, has raised more money than any other candidate in her bid for re-election. Scratch that, she has raised the most money out of any Seattle City Council campaign in history, Danny Westneat of The Seattle Times points out.
Sawant has raised $362,129.99. That is a record, as she has surpassed former-record holder and council president Tim Burgess, according to Westneat. Burgess raised $353,000 in 2007. Sawant’s campaign money comes from about 2,600 contributors, which may be a record of its own, Westneat reports.
The fact that Sawant has raised the most money ever for a city council campaign may not surprise people. The council member has been a vocal supporter of things such as rent control and even fighting to make broadband a city-operated utility. She is also spending a portion of funds on consultants, to the tune of about $12,000 — although that’s just a drop in the bucket for her campaign.
Compare Sawant’s campaign to her opponent, Pamela Banks. Banks has raised about $317,000. It’s not a huge difference. But it does raise questions about campaign funding in Seattle and whether or not the city actually needs a law in place to “protect Seattle’s elections from the influence of big money.”
Initiative 122 looks to help curb the amount of money from big corporations and lobbyists by creating a publicly-funded election system. Campaigns are “so expensive they discourage many potential candidates” from running. But is that argument valid?
Initiative backers would say yes. Heather Weiner of Honest Elections Seattle told the Times that campaign donors typically live in high-end neighborhoods, which skews the process. There isn’t much money coming from middle-class or poor neighborhoods.
“If we level the playing field and say candidates can raise money from anybody, and that everybody has the ability to give candidates money, we think that will really improve our democracy,” Weiner recently said on KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show.
But if the city’s socialist council member is pulling in the most money, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to worry about big business influencing campaigns in Seattle. And if Sawant has more than 2,000 donors, many of which contributed relatively low sums of money, should Seattle residents be concerned about where it is coming from? Let’s not forget, the campaign to cut big money out of politics has raised quite a bit.