In the comments to my post yesterday on Kshama Sawant, the socialist candidate for city council and self-proclaimed representative of the "99 percent," a reader asked me to post financial info for city council incumbent Richard Conlin, whom Sawant is challenging.
Some background. Sawant: has declared herself a representative of the 99 percent (a reference to the Occupy movement, which criticized the federal government for bailing out big banks and subsidizing big businesses while letting middle- and lower-income people fall between the cracks); has vowed that she won't take any "corporate money"; has proposed turning over ownership of all large corporations, including Microsoft, to their employees; and has trashed Microsoft specifically as a "corporate behemoth" that benefits from unfair government handouts.
Yet, as we pointed out, according to Sawant's financial disclosure form, she and her spouse collectively earn an absolute minimum of $108,000, which list among Sawant's income sources a minimum of $100,000 from her spouse (anything over $100,000, no matter how much more, is listed as "more than $100,000" on state financial disclosure forms, and Sawant lists income between $4,000 and $19,999 from two part-time teaching jobs.) She also lists personal assets in two accounts between $40,000 and $99,000 each.
A commenter pointed out that I didn't include Conlin's own financials in the post. Well, courtesy of the Public Disclosure Commission and a Google search, here they are: Conlin makes $120,000. His wife, who's head of a dispute resolution firm, makes between $40,000 and $99,999. He has an IRA worth between $40,000 and $99,999, and a city retirement account worth at least $100,000.
But, per my original post, Conlin isn't the one claiming to be a representative of the poor; Sawant is.
It's cool that Sawant's evidently a class traitor (we consider that a positive) who's stumping for quixotic but worthy goals. But just as the Occupy movement was suspect that Congress can address the needs of the 99 percent because it includes so many millionaires (47 percent!), it's hard to see how someone with a top-bracket income can be truly in touch with the poor in Seattle.
Conlin isn't simultaneously trashing corporations and simultaneously benefiting financially from one of the specific corporations that are evidently ruining America; Sawant is. (Not only does her husband work for Microsoft, Microsoft is the top employer of her contributors) And Conlin isn't promising to give away most of his salary to organizations supporting mass social movements if elected; Sawant is. A working-class candidate couldn't afford to do that. Those facts are germane precisely because Sawant is running as a Socialist who favors redistribution of wealth.
An income of $108,000 (or, likely, more) puts a person well out of the range of the middle class; in fact, it puts her above the 82nd percentile of U.S. household income. So, assuming Sawant earns the absolute minimum outlined in her financial disclosure forms, let's call her a 18 percenter.
At any rate, the point wasn't that Sawant literally makes above the 99th percentile of income in the U.S.; the point was that I found it odd that such a wealthy person would portray herself as a representative of the poor without publicly acknowledging that wealth.
Sawant didn't return our initial call; we put another call out to her today.
UPDATE: As noted, I've called Sawant multiple times and emailed her directly; she has not responded to any of my attempts to reach her.
In a post on her campaign blog, Sawant said she is separated from her husband but has not divorced him for "emotional" and "private" reasons. That's none of our business, but the fact remains that she lists him under the "source of income" portion on her official financial disclosure form for the state's Public Disclosure Commission. That's what we reported, and it's true. The form is available on the original post.