Council President Tim Burgess is running for reelection against tenant advocate Jon Grant.
Council President Tim Burgess is running for reelection against tenant advocate Jon Grant. Burgess photo by City of Seattle; Grant photo courtesy of campaign

Yesterday, a new political action committee registered with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission under this very political and totally unspecific name: Seattle Needs Ethical Leaders. The PAC filed in order to raise and spend money on independent expenditures (that is, spending for or against a certain candidate that's not connected to the candidate's campaign).

SEEC records don't yet show any specifics about who's funding the effort, but the political consultant listed as the contact person—Jason Bennett—says the group "will be a pro-[Tim] Burgess, anti-Jon Grant" effort. Bennett says the group expects to raise about $200,000, mostly for print advertising.

"We anticipate donors will include a mix of business, veterans' advocates, and parties who are concerned about Jon’s activities while at the Tenants Union," Bennett says in an e-mail. Bennett didn't answer follow-up questions about what he means by "Jon's activities while at the Tenants Union" or why he expects veterans' advocates to be interested in this effort.

Grant says he doesn't know what that means either.

"I spent five years of my life rebuilding that organization from the ground up," he says of the Tenants Union. "I'm incredibly proud of the work I did there and my reputation in the community is sterling. They're going to have a real hard time trying to convince people otherwise."

Grant believes it's "not a coincidence" that the PAC showed up after he criticized Burgess for receiving contributions from landlords.

"This is how worried they are that they’re going to lose," Grant says of Burgess's supporters. (Remember, independent expenditure committees are not allowed to be connected to the campaigns themselves.) "I think this election is going to be won not with money but with message and it's pretty clear to voters that we have the stronger message."

Another pro-Burgess PAC, "United for Tim," also registered yesterday, but I haven't yet heard back from the organizers of that committee.

During this year's primary election, Bennett, the political consultant behind this PAC, worked on failed District 3 candidate Rod Hearne's campaign and on the railroad and maritime industry-funded PAC that supported Catherine Weatbrook, who's challenging Council Member Mike O'Brien.

A particularly fitting comment from Bennett to the Seattle Times about this type of outside spending, which has reached historic levels in our new district elections system:

Jason Bennett, a consultant, said big money will continue to flow. Districts have made candidates less dependent on deep-pocketed donors, but those donors still want outsized influence, so they’re turning to independent-expenditure committees, he said.