Swinging from the Chandeliers

Like Tennessean Andrew Jackson's drunken supporters swinging from chandeliers at the rowdy 1829 White House inauguration bash that signaled the defeat of the snobbish East Coast Whigs, Seattle's rabble took over the 66th-floor law offices of Marler Clark on Wednesday night, January 28. (We downed $1,100 worth of beer, wine, and finger-food trifles while laptop deejay Charles Mudede appropriated the firm's computer sound system to pipe in some dub.)

Bringing Real Integrity Back to Elections, or BRIBE, a committee founded by the Stranger news squad, hosted the shindig to raise money for bus ads that will publicize Mayor Greg Nickels' heavy-handed efforts to influence new city council members Jean Godden and Tom Rasmussen. The Stranger broke the story about Nickels' December 10 fundraiser, where the mayor rounded up nearly $10,000 to pay down Godden's and Rasmussen's campaign debts. Nickels erased nearly 20 percent of Godden's debt. You've gotta wonder if Godden's subsequent performance, running rubber-stamp confirmation hearings for Nickels' Seattle City Light nominee, was influenced by the mayor's generosity.

BRIBE's bash was held in the same Bank of America Tower law office as Nickels' fundraiser--attorney Bill Marler's wood- paneled spread, with its wide-screen TVs and panoramic city views. (The fun-loving Marler offered the digs after we started bashing Nickels' fundraiser and threatening to hold our own.)

BRIBE drew a much different crowd than Nickels, though, with the 30-plus neighborhood activists, scruffy Stranger readers, and populist stars like monorail board member Cindi Laws (to whom we presented a megaphone to symbolize her status as a righteous, outspoken elected official) showing up in place of Team Nickels' business crowd. Similarly, BRIBE's donations came exclusively in $10 and $20 pops, rather than the $100, $250, and $650 checks that Nickels' folks (including Nickels' city council lobbyist) contributed. Still, BRIBE raised enough cash for its bus campaign--nearly $400 so far.

"Well, at least your message is consistent," Godden staffer Tom Van Bronkhorst-- who showed up out of curiousity--said graciously after I gave my fundraising pitch. The pitch quoted popular council veteran Peter Steinbrueck who had warned new council members about "being perceived as lapdogs for the mayor."

Steinbrueck, by the way, has also said Nickels was acting like the "people who round up money, being bagmen to get around contribution limits to curry favor."

And Steinbrueck isn't the only one who understands why we're steamed about city hall business as usual. Neighborhood activist Lisa Merki said, "The mayor is up to his usual backroom, good-ol'-boy crap and needs to be called on the carpet," while I-75 pot activist Dominic Holden responded to BRIBE's invite with appropriate yee-haw Jacksonian gumption: "Fuck yeah, I'm there. This shit is great."