Extra Fizz

Extra Fizz: Election Edition

Some extra fizz about the mayor's race, districts, and I-522.

By Erica C. Barnett September 26, 2013

Sorry for the slow pace today. We've been busy writing mayoral endorsements for the magazine.

Your consolation prize: Some extra Fizz. About the mayor's race, of course.

1. Well, that didn't take long: Just one day after Service Employees International Union 775 president David Rolf had effusive things to say about mayoral candidate (and state Sen. Ed Murray, D-43, Capitol Hill)—Rolf, who stopped short of endorsing Murray, called Murray's proposal to phase in a $15 an hour minimum wage "courageous and important action"—Murray got the endorsement today of both SEIU 775, which represents home health care workers, and SEIU 1199, which represents nurses and other health care workers. 

In their announcement, the two unions echoed Rolf's comments, saying Murray's "plan to increase Seattle’s minimum wage to $15/hour would stimulate the economy, helping workers and businesses."

Murray's latest union backer, SEIU 775,  is also  major funder of the SeaTac campaign to raise the minimum wage. Both Murray and incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn have touted their union endorsements, with McGinn pointing out his support from the hotel and restaurant workers' union (UNITE HERE Local 8) and the grocery workers' union (UFCW), and Murray bragging about his 95 percent lifetime pro-labor voting record in Olympia.

The two unions represent nearly 10,000 Seattle workers. It's also worth noting that SEIU 775 is a major funder (and part of the steering committee) on the SeaTac minimum wage campaign, which sort of calls McGinn's line about Murray being a closet member of the downtown capitalist elite into question.

2. After filing a city ethics complaint against a pro-Ed Murray independent expenditure campaign, People for Ed Murray and the political arm of the Chamber of Commerce, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (the complaint charged that People for Ed Murray was taking money from CASE to hide the original source of the CASE contributions), the campaign for Mayor Mike McGinn has filed a followup complaint against a new pro-Murray group, People for a New Seattle Mayor. 

The complaint, filed by attorney Gary Manca, charges that the new committee was set up in another effort to hide where the pro-Murray money is coming from, and to "insulate" themselves from "the taint of any future finding by the SEEC that the committees broke campaign-disclosure laws."

As we reported a week ago, People for a New Seattle Mayor has the same treasurer, Phil Lloyd, and the same campaign manager, Dean Nielsen, as People for Ed Murray. 

After calling the new group "a new political committee in name only," the complaint continues, "The committee officers’ proclivity for forming political committees raises other concerns. They may wish to create a web of political committees in order to skirt campaign-disclosure laws. Besides helping conceal the true identity of donors and facilitating earmarking without proper reporting, interrelated political committees can be used as an end-around to avoid [the city municipal code's] restriction on receiving contributions of more than $5,000 within 21 days before the election."

(As we noted in an update to Fizz this morning, another charge in Manca's letter, the claim that the Chamber of Commerce paid Murray's polling firm, EMC, to do their polling, is not true; EMC says they weren't paid by the Chamber, but simply gave the Chamber permission to use some EMC polling).

3. A similar complaint about attempts to hide donors—this one filed as a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court last week by "Moms for Labeling," supporters of the pro-GMO labeling campaign, against the 'No' side and against a major 'No'-side donor, the Grocery Manfuacturers Association—got hit with a countersuit today.

No on 522 and the GMA filed a suit saying the complaint that the GMA was secretly funneling money from members into the 'No' campaign was "a political gambit" and "a strategic attempt to suppress political speech." The original suit by the 'Yes' campaign activists asked the court to make the 'No' side pull their TV commercials until the individual companies they believed were the real top funders were included in the ad's disclaimers.

The pro-522's lawyer, Knoll Lowney who says he isn't being paid, was seeking to depose GMA officials to ask them point blank who the funders were. Today's countersuit stops that from happening.



There's an irony in all this, the pro side says. The GMA is countersuing under a populist state law to prevent what are know as SLAPP suits—Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. Today's suit accuses "Moms for Labelin"—the original plaintiffs—of trying to intimidate the 'No' campaign with a SLAPP suit. They write, in part, referring to corporate donations as free speech: "Plaintiff seeks to restrain speech protected by the First Amendment." 

But SLAPP suits are typically used by wealthy interests to bully people into submission or into shutting up with the threat of expensive legal costs. In this instance, though, the Grocery Manfucturers Association, with enough resources to have contibuted $2.2 million to the anti-GMO-labeling campaign so far, is seeking $10,000 plus attorneys' fees from the comparatively grassroots pro-GMO-labeling side.

We say comparatively because the 'Yes' side also has big backers, such as California's Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, which gave $1.4 million. Still, the campaign has more than 7,000 donors, with an average donation of $25, while the 'No' side is being funded almost exclusively by large out of-state chemical and food companies including Monsanto, Dupont, and Dow, along with the Grocery Manufacturers Association. 

The 'Yes' campaign has raised $4.3 million to the 'No' campaign's $11.6 million.

We have a call into the 'No' side's attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine.

4. Faye Garneau, the North Seattle businesswoman who's the main financier for the Seattle district-elections campaign, has indeed (as we predicted earlier this month) had to attach her name to the districts campaign.

Under state law, any person or group that contributes more than 80 percent of the total funding for an initiative campaign has to be listed as the campaign's sponsor; Garneau has contributed 89 percent of the $193,000 the districts campaign has raised so far. 

Hence the new name of the districts campaign: "Seattle Districts Now, Sponsored by Faye Garneau." Truth in advertising.  


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