Today brings to a close one chapter in the bizarre clusterfuck involving Bruce Harrell, alleged vote buying, and comparisons to Bush v. Gore. The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has now (and rather quickly) dismissed a complaint involving the Harrell campaign and the 37th Legislative District Democrats, as first reported by Seattlish.
In his dismissal, SEEC director Wayne Barnett writes that most of the key allegations made in the complaint—that a boss may have instructed his employee to become members of the LD group, that the membership fees may have been "bundled," that the whole endorsement process could have been "manipulated" in some way—don't fall under his jurisdiction.
If you don't know what any of this means, I explained what's going on pretty exhaustively right here.
What Barnett can rule on, he writes, is whether someone (like a representative from the Harrell campaign) bought the memberships (which are considered contributions under the city's ethics code) "in such a way as to conceal the true identity of the contributor."
"Our inquiry found no evidence to believe that occurred," Barnett writes.
And what about those notorious sequential money orders that were purchased at a Renton Fred Meyer and delivered to the 37th LD's treasurer on the last possible day to become a member in time to vote on the endorsements? They were purchased by Abdul Yusuf of Eastside for Hire and seven Eastside for Hire Drivers, Yusuf told the SEEC.
Although, as Seattlish points out, it would be really difficult to prove definitively that there was absolutely no involvement of the Harrell campaign in all this, the SEEC isn't seeing any evidence that the Harrell camp was involved.
Harrell and his campaign treasurer, Vinh Tang, both submitted affidavits signed under penalty of perjury to the SEEC saying the campaign didn't pay for those memberships.
In his affidavit, Tang says he did call the chair of the 37th to ask about whether campaigns were allowed to buy memberships, but was told they're not allowed to, and so they didn't. Harrell says the same thing.
"No member of my campaign paid or was authorized or instructed to pay for the dues of any member int he 37[th] Legislative District Democrats," Harrell writes. "I have examined our campaign financial ledger to verify these facts and interviewed members of my campaign."
Harrell goes on to say he did not know the 15 new members on endorsement night and did not, as some have claimed, tell anyone how to vote during the endorsement process ("although," Harrell writes, "such action would have been within my rights").
As I mentioned earlier this week, this whole thing is just the latest in an ongoing split within the 37th, the same LD that wouldn't allow socialist Kshama Sawant at a forum earlier this year because she's not a Democrat.
The 37th's treasurer and the two people who signed on to the complaint are all Sawant supporters. Harrell has supported Sawant's opponent, Pamela Banks. On the night of the endorsement, along with endorsing Harrell, the group narrowly endorsed Banks and incumbent Tim Burgess, who's being challenged by Sawant ally Jon Grant. Along with the Harrell-related drama, there were other questions about whether the votes for Banks and Burgess were valid, and those aren't dealt with in this complaint dismissal.
This dismissal will vindicate those who've said nothing untoward happened here while likely doing little to satisfy those making the complaints. I reached out to Keeley, who filed the complaint, and haven't heard back yet. In a statement sent to reporters earlier this week, Keeley said the "credibility and trustworthiness" of the LD group "should be paramount."
"When flags are raised, we must proceed with integrity and ensure that our process is transparent and democratic," she wrote. "Principles matter."
I've asked Harrell's campaign for their response. The 37th LD Democrats' next meeting is Monday. You can bet all this will come up.
UPDATE: Harrell just released a statement announcing the dismissal and then commenting:
Above all else, the East African community deserves an apology from the individuals who filed this complaint, so conciliation can begin for the 37th and all parties involved.
I remain concerned about how the East African community was viewed suspiciously at a time when we are are trying to build community and welcome them into the democratic process.
I look forward to helping heal the wound this incident has caused in the 37th Legislative District family. I hope we can be a stronger democratic organization moving forward, welcoming all new members.
I want to thank the 37th membership for their endorsement this year and in previous years.