Despite the angry message voters sent in this year's election, the influence peddling continues at city hall. Just substitute Mayor Nickels for strip club owner Frank Colacurcio Jr., and just substitute the incoming Seattle City Council members for the ousted ones--and Seattle's city hall is still all about amateurish back-scratching politics. Nickels, you see, decided to host a December 10 fundraiser for the new council members.

First, though, in a clunky bit of heavy-handed schmoozing, Team Nickels offered to give the three new council members (David Della, Jean Godden, and Tom Rasmussen) temporary office space, phone lines, and staff in Key Tower before they officially take office and get their permanent digs in City Hall. The standard move would not violate any ethics rules, according to the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission, because it could be considered part of the orderly process of transition. However, given that Nickels is currently losing his lock on power (just this week, the current council schooled Nickels on the budget and on Northgate), it feels like Nickels is going out of his way to butter up the newcomers; Nickels had endorsed Della's opponent and Rasmussen's opponent during the election.

Nickels' offer wouldn't feel so tacky if he hadn't also made a more enticing overture: helping the new council members pay off their campaign debts by hosting the December 10 fundraiser at Marler Clark's law offices in the Bank of America Tower (Rasmussen is about $40K in the hole, Godden is about $28K in debt, and Della is in the black). Only Godden and Rasmussen took the mayor up on the offer. Rasmussen is the newcomer who seems likeliest to side with the current council against Nickels on Northgate. It will be interesting to see if that changes.

"He's really reaching out to the new council members to establish a good working relationship," Rasmussen says. Rasmussen, who's currently working out of his West Seattle home, turned down the Key Tower office. Neither Della nor Godden returned our calls by press time.

The fundraiser isn't an ethics violation, but it certainly highlights how Team Nickels operates. Yecch. It will also create an appearance of conflict for Godden and Rasmussen every time they vote with Team Nickels on a contested issue.

Nickels spokesperson Marianne Bichsel says offering transition office space is standard protocol. As for the fundraiser, she says: "We wanted to welcome the new council members and do something nice. There's nothing more to it than that."