There have been many questions swirling around Moms for Seattle, a new political action committee that's been throwing around lots of money in an effort to flip Seattle's City Council conservative.
So far, the moms have announced plans to spend more than $150,000 to support a slate of candidates who, with the exception of Pat Murakami, also happen to be backed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's PAC, "Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy." Among the candidates: Pat Murakami in District 3, Alex Pedersen in District 4, Heidi Wills in District 6, and Michael George in District 7. Recently, the moms dropped $48,000 alone in Facebook ads.
As local writers and activists have recently discovered, several decidedly non-mom consultants are shaping this PAC's message, including Clear Paths Partners LLC (we'll get to them in a second) and Western Consultants LLC, a group nobody in the Seattle political world seems to know. Western Consultants was registered in Nevada but on disclosure forms it lists a Seattle P.O. box as its local address. It also hasn't responded to a Stranger interview request.
On Monday, the Stranger dropped in to check out the contracts signed between the "Moms" and their various consultants, which allowed us to learn more about who's really running their show.
The short answer is Strategies 360, a large consulting firm co-founded and operated by Ron Dotzauer. Dotzauer is an ancient lobbyist who got his start running Scoop Jackson's 1982 Senate campaign and also Maria Cantwell's first senate campaign in 2000. (Dotzauer and Cantwell have some, um, history.)
This year, Strategies 360 has done $10,000 worth of research work for that Amazon-funded, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce-run PAC, "Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy" (aka CASE). In previous years, they've worked for Ed Murray and Jenny Durkan. They were Dave Meinert's crisis communications team, at least until they figured out Meinert had allegedly sexually assaulted one of their own employees, according to KUOW. And one of their former staff, Jeff Reading, served as Murray's personal spokesperson while the former mayor was being accused of rape.
Sightline described Strategies 360 as "an arm of the coal and oil industries, albeit one cloaked in the friendly guise of local boys."
Anyhow, here's the trail of contracts and money that leads from the moms back to Strategies 360: Political Partners LLC, a foreign limited liability company, is the governing agent for Western Consultants LLC, which has a consulting contract with Moms for Seattle. According to the Secretary of State's files, Strategies 360 Inc and Eric Sorenson, co-owner of Strategies 360, are the governing agents for Political Partners LLC.
So there you have it. But there's a little more.
On June 7 of this year, Moms for Seattle hired Clear Paths Partners LLC, a consulting firm run by Randy Bannecker, John Engber, Meg O'Conor, and Joe Quintaña. Clear Paths only launched last December, and all the men are longtime lobbyists and political operatives.
In the contract with the moms, Bannecker is listed as a representative for "Seattle - King County Realtors of CASE Executive Committee;" Engber, former Vice President of Strategies 360, is listed as a representative of the Washington Retail Association, whose PAC has given the CASE PAC $20,000; and Quintaña is listed as a representative of Clise Properties, which has given the CASE PAC $5,000. So that's a big ol' rats nest of CASE-friendly developers and big businesses.
The contract seems pretty standard, offering a timeline of services that starts in early June and runs through to the general election. For over $27,000, Clear Path promises to score earned media, scope candidates, and be the "eyes and ears" of the group. Celeste Garcia Ramberg, who gave $5,000 to the Moms for Seattle PAC, is named as the PAC's steering committee chair.
On July 11, Engber, of Clear Path, hired Western Consultants LLC to handle website updates and maintenance on behalf of Moms for Seattle, plus "creative services," direct mail, and digital media. Noel Treat is listed in the contract as the primary contact for Western Consultants, and Laura Lukito is named as the finance person for the group. Bryan Quinn signed the contract on behalf of Western, but he left no address beneath his signature. Both Treat and Lukito work for Strategies 360.
Treat is the senior vice president and general counsel for Strategies 360, Lukito is the corporate accountant, Dotzauer smirks and wears a cowboy hat, and the Stranger has no idea who Bryan Quinn is.
So, it looks like Engber basically hired some talent from his old company to do some digital work for his new client, Moms for Seattle. The money trail goes: Moms --> ClearPath --> Western Consultants --> Strategies 360.
But why did Western Consultants make it so hard to discover that they're linked to Strategies 360? And why did Strategies 360 create and staff what looks like a shell company just to consult for a PAC that wants to buy a more business-friendly council? It's not like Dotzauer and Strategies 360 have been quiet on the issue.
I wish I could give you the answers to these questions, but neither Treat nor a representative from Strategies 360 responded to requests for comment.
Lester Black contributed reporting.