An aide to former mayor Ed Murray is looking to change what he says is a problematic gap in the city's rules on elections and lobbying.
David Mendoza, a senior policy advisor in the mayor's office, on Monday sent a letter to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission requesting restrictions on campaign consultants' ability to lobby in the city. He asked that the commission add the topic onto the next meeting's agenda.
Citing Sandeep Kaushik as the specific example, Mendoza said Kaushik—who was a campaign consultant for Murray, and now working for Jenny Durkan's mayoral campaign—had a close relationship with Murray while he also lobbied for corporations Comcast, Airbnb, and Lyft over legislation the city was crafting. (Mendoza supports Durkan's opponent, Cary Moon.) Kaushik has been compensated $78,000 so far this year from the three companies, according to SEEC reports.
"I have seen this access and influence alter or successfully block legislation and it is impossible to determine whether the advice provided was the result of a conflict of interest," Mendoza wrote in his letter,adding that the consultant would have easy access and a unique ability to sway the official's opinions. "The interpersonal relationship developed during a heated campaign cycle can be significantly closer than typical office relationships."
Mendoza suggested barring elected official's political consultants from registering as a lobbyist during the official's term.
"I think this is a late ploy by someone who is deeply involved in Cary Moon's campaign in a senior level, and who is personally involved with her consulting team to create the appearance of impropriety where there is none," Kaushik told The Seattle Times, and mentioned Mendoza's girlfriend worked for the campaign.
Mendoza was previously a commissioner for the SEEC and became a senior policy advisor for the mayor in 2014. Asked about the timing of the letter, Mendoza told PubliCola he's generally been uncomfortable with Kaushik's influence and began developing a proposal a couple weeks ago.
He said he decided to send the letter when he found policies developed in other areas like Alaska or Maryland. Kaushik was the only example of the problem Mendoza said he could find from public disclosure reports. He didn't coordinate the letter with the Moon campaign, he added, or inform Moon or Lisa Maclean about the letter until after he sent it. Moon's campaign declined to comment.
"Just because something is not widespread doesn't mean that it shouldn't be addressed," Mendoza told PubliCola. "I'm understanding people would be suspicious, but this is generally a question of ethics and not politics. ...He's being paid by the mayor until the end of July while also being paid by those companies. It's hard to determine the root of his advice."
Updated 4:30pm on October 25, 2017, to clarify a quote from Mendoza.