How City Council Candidates Separate Donors from Their Dollars

By Johnathon Fitzpatrick August 19, 2011 Published in the September 2011 issue of Seattle Met

A WOMAN DANGLES from two bolts of cloth, gyrating half naked in the rafters of a SoDo salon. A waiter inches through a packed Belltown bar offering bottomless shots of bourbon. All around Seattle, piles of food beckon from school gymnasiums, rented rooms with waterfront vistas, and church basements—all to appease appetites and break open billfolds.

Yes, Labor Day weekend is when voters traditionally start paying attention to local elections, but Seattle City Council candidates have been paying for that attention for months. In fact, there’s been a fundraising arms race—one in which alliteration and rhymes seem to be the most ubiquitous weapons.

Position No. 1 incumbent Jean Godden called her fundraising series—fueled by local restaurant owners—Gourmet Godden. Her challenger Bobby Forch hosted Forch on Your Porch events, while another rival, Maurice Classen, gave his pitch at Mojitos for Mo’. Meanwhile, Position No. 9 incumbent Sally Clark tempted sweet tooths with Pies and Politics.

Often the candidates give a speech, grin as supporters clap, then yield the floor to the person designated to perform the ask, when attendees are expected to crack their checkbooks.

It works. One of ­Godden’s events at FareStart cost $2,500 and brought in nearly 10 times as much. Classen’s Belltown Pub soiree (with unlimited Michter’s 91-proof bourbon shots) set him back $2,000 but earned up to three times that.

And even legendarily low-budget Michael Taylor-Judd may have spent about $150 on beer, but still raised nearly 500 bucks. His aerialist entertainment came free of charge.

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