Money and Politics
There is too much money in politics. This is especially so at the federal level, and the ongoing weakening of federal campaign finance regulations is far from helpful. Statewide, the PDC does as good of a job as they can, but thanks to the GOP's refusal to adequately fund the department, it is unable to be proactive, and instead ends up having to react to complaints from the public. For those paying attention at home, that means 90% are coming from Glen Morgan in his attempt to harass all-volunteer Democratic Party organizations.
Seattle is a different beast altogether, of course. We have lower contribution limits than just about anywhere, and, of course, the introduction this year of the Democracy Voucher program, with associated spending limits. Adding in districts (and a pretty smart electorate), we have created a system where money isn't as important as in many other places. Of course, it's becoming the new "in" thing to make statements like "I reject x money". I'm sorry, folks, but that's just lazy af.
In 2015, I sat down for tea with Philip Locker. Folks in Seattle should know him as one of the leaders in Socialist Alternative. I know - hanging out with the "other side" is a no-no, but Philip is a good dude. We have our disagreements on public policy, but at the municipal level, there is plenty on which we agree. (Fun fact: I also was invited, and accepted the invite, to the 46th District Republicans, and had a chat with them about my positions and vision for Seattle. I don't think they cared for me or Rob that much. Shocking, I'm sure).
During our chat, I was asked if I would affirmatively reject any and all corporate contributions. I declined. As I said then and continue to assert now: I'm not going to make some sort of bumper-sticker slogan statement to sound cool, but that is ultimately irrelevant. If someone thought I could be bought for $700, that says more about my failure to represent that I am who I am. I like to think I haven't sown so much doubt about myself that people need me to affirmatively reject contributions for fear that they could change my vote on an issue.
But also: why affirmatively reject something that probably isn't going to happen. In 2015, I was a loud and staunch proponent of municipal broadband. If Comcast gave me $700, then they would simply be funding a candidate who would work to implement a municipal broadband plan. Of course they weren't going to give me money. With current limits of $250 for participants in the voucher program ($500 for non-participants), the idea that a corporate contributor is somehow proof of anything is even more absurd. This actually came up during a Party meeting recently, wherein someone lobbed an "attack" at Scott Lindsay for taking $500 contributions. Scott's a good dude, and that's a character attack that just has no place in policy discussions.
This is something we are hearing regularly in the Position 8 race. During a forum last night, for instance, Jon Grant attacked labor leader Teresa Mosqueda for a contribution from Maria Barrientos of $250. This comes as no surprise - if you take a look at a campaign memo from his team (bro - work on your leaks), this is the first thing he likes to cite as a difference between himself and Mosqueda. (Also hilarious: one of her "negatives" being longstanding relationships with labor unions and non-profits).
For folks who don't know, Maria Barrientos is one of the only women of color who has built a successful career in housing development (pun!), being involved in everything from arts centers to affordable housing developments to high-end development. She has been very involved in the community, working to help build ladders out of poverty for communities of color, and working with communities on projects that incorporate unique traits of neighborhoods into the planning. She was also part of the HALA committee, along with Jon Grant. Look at his memo again, and you'll see he didn't even vote "no", instead showing the strong leadership of abstaining on the final deal. Of course, given his history, it should come as no surprise that he would lash out at an accomplished woman of color supporting another accomplished woman of color. I took a max contribution from a wealthy investor from California when I ran, and he did it because some in the LGBTQ community like to see more folks from the LGBTQ community in decision making places.
See, folks don't make contributions of $250 because they're trying to buy votes. They make them because the folks they're donating to are the ones they want to win. Sometimes that's due to an alignment of values on all policy issues, other times it's because of a single policy issue, sometimes it's because folks are friends with each other, other times it's because they're family, and yet other times it's because communities stick together.
And cherry picking like that works all ways. Looking through the contributors to Jon Grant, not only do we see many folks who have been staunch advocates against more housing types, slow-growthers, and anti-growthers, but also people who work for Capital One, Amazon, and Microsoft. There's a lawyer who does corporate and real estate law. Folks who work for investment firms. So, obviously this means that Jon Grant is a corporate sellout. See how ridiculous this argument is.
The reality is this: if a candidate has to resort to pulling a name or two from their opponents' contributor list, that's because they don't have anything real to offer. It's one thing when there is significant backing of economically conservative business interests, but when your name is Teresa Mosqueda, your contributor list includes labor leaders who worked their way up the ranks, folks from the Fair Work Center, people working at community health centers, affordable housing activists, and civil rights attorneys.
Expect more of politicians. We owe a duty to run campaigns that are based in fact and actionable ideas, not dog whistles and meaningless platitudes.