A Last-Minute Donation

By Morning Fizz August 18, 2009


1. Did the Service Employees International Union attempt to funnel a campaign contribution to King County Executive candidate Dow Constantine and two other candidates through the 34th District Democrats? That's the allegation being made by at least one 34th District member, who voted against a motion to turn over a last-minute $4,000 donation from the SEIU to Constantine, City Council candidate Dorsol Plants and Port Commission candidate Max Vekich.

(Constantine, Plants, and Vekich all live in the 34th and are popular with district members—particularly Constantine, who won the district's early endorsement. Plants and Vekich were also endorsed by the 34th.)


34th rock star, Dow Constantine. Photo from West Seattle Blog

The backstory: Last Monday, the 34th District Democrats received an apparently unexpected check from the SEIU for $4,000. At the group's meeting two days later, the chair and vice chair of the group proposed suspending the group's rules to spend the entire $4,000 (which was not initially identified as SEIU money) right away, in the form of a $3,000 check to Constantine (and $500 checks to Plants and Vekich). Ordinarily, contributions to political candidates have to go through the group's executive committee. The check represented about a third of the district's entire bank account, and was the only union contribution the group received this year, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

District chair Tim Nuse denies the money was intended for Constantine (to whom the SEIU has already maxed out). He calls it a "generous gift" given with "no strings attached," and notes that the group ultimately voted not to give the money to Constantine and the other candidates. "Having $4,000 more to work with, we thought we'd bring it to the members and see if they were interested in using it right now, and they weren't," Nuse says.

(It would have been against the rules for SEIU to give the money to the 34th on the condition that the money go to a candidate that they'd already maxed out to, but otherwise the 34th is free to do what they please with the money, including giving it to Constantine of their own accord.)

However, some members didn't like the idea. "As a 34th member, I'm appalled at the absence of ethics," the member, who wants to stay anonymous, wrote. "I don't want to sever my connect[ion] right now, but I'm planning to do so shortly."

SEIU spokesman Adam Glickman responded to calls with an email suggesting we contact SEIU president David Rolf about the check; Rolf has not yet returned a call for comment. In addition to maxing out to Constantine, the SEIU also contributed $10,000 to a $36,000 independent expenditure campaign against state Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina) who's running against Constantine for King County Executive.

2. Morning Fizz hears that Seattle Times investigative reporter David Heath is leaving to take a job at the online news giant, The Huffington Post .

In response to an email and a call about the news, Heath emailed to say he couldn't comment. Neither the Seattle Times nor Huffington Post returned our calls.

3. Looking for a wonky pre-funk before you hit tonight's election parties? If so, head over to Blanche Lavizzo Park today at 5  (just south of Yesler Way and 22nd Ave. S. in the CD) for a discussion about proposed changes to the city's multifamily code in midrise and highrise areas.

Sound boring? To sweeten the deal, the city council's planning committee will be serving free ice cream promptly at 5 pm.

4. If you still haven't voted, it's not too late—check out PubliCola's election picks , mail your ballot by 8:00 tonight, and stop by our party (also hosted by the Seattle Municipal League and Seattle Works) at Twist in Belltown, 2314 First Ave.

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