A recall Sawant PAC has been released from campaign contribution limit

UPDATED: NOVEMBER 29, 2021 AT 10:59 AM
MyNorthwest Reporter

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission has released the recall Councilmember Kshama Sawant political action committee “A Better Seattle” from its campaign contribution limits.

New PAC forms amid bid to recall Kshama Sawant, petitions for release from spending limits

On the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, attorneys representing both the recall effort and the Kshama Solidarity campaign debated the action, with Judge William Downing ultimately ruling that the now unlimited campaign contributions afforded to the recall effort are within the confines of the law: A Better Seattle does not pose a corruption risk as it does not sponsor a candidate for Sawant’s District 3 seat were she to be recalled.

The anti-Sawant campaign is among two recall efforts, the other being Recall Sawant. The two campaigns have raised $825,375 between them. Kshama Solidarity Campaign has raised $844,362.

A Better Seattle registered Oct. 27. The PAC began with $1,000 pledges from PINE Street Group’s Matt Griffin, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, as well as Washington Multi-Family Housing Association.

The appearance of a second recall PAC effectively allowed for interested donors to contribute $2,000, for the contribution maximum was a previously enforced $1,000. A Better Seattle was released from that maximum as of Nov. 24.

An attorney representing Kshama Solidarity argued that the suspension of the contribution limit would be irregular considering ballots are already in the mail, with the election only weeks away.

“Federal courts have said time and again that changing the rules of an election late in the day close to an election is a no-no,” the attorney said.

“It’s entirely inequitable. And that’s because election rules should be clear, especially as the election approaches here. It’s not even an election approaching. We are literally in the middle of the election right now. … Two of the committees that have been involved in this election — the Kshama Solidarity Committee, and the recall committee — [have] operated under the statutory principles for over a year now.”

Legal representation for A Better Seattle argued that its request would not impede voter participation in the election, and the argument that time should be considered when adjusting regulations surrounding an election are more appropriate with regard to aspects of voting such as drop box location, et cetera.

He continued by invoking Citizens United, effectively arguing that campaign contributions are a freedom of speech issue.

“The Court recognized that recall committees are, for all practical purposes, the same as independent expenditure political action committees,” said Kevin Hamilton, A Better Seattle representative.

“In both cases, there’s no close connection to a candidate for a candidate campaign committee, and thus there’s no threat of either actual corruption or apparent corruption. … Citizens United and the Court held absent such a threat,” he continued. “A contribution limitation on an independent expenditure committee would constitute an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.”