*extremely Law & Order voice* In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime and the Moms who Photoshop mailers to spread fear about homeless people. Over the weekend, after boasting of potential positive coverage, various news outlets revealed their stories.
The Seattle Times, KUOW, KIRO and ParentMap confirmed the identity of the moms behind Moms for Seattle, a new political action committee (PAC) that's raised over $180,000 in their effort to elect conservatives to the City Council.
Turns out, Laura McMahon, Celeste Garcia Ramberg, Betsy Losh, and Jeannine Christofilis founded the PAC. These are the same moms who invited Scott Lindsay to speak at the PACs launch in June, as The Stranger reported last Friday.
Anyone who read those pieces likely came away with the idea that the Moms really are just four extremely wealthy women from Seattle who decided over a phone call (or was it coffee? or was it after several Speak Out Seattle forums?) that they were "concerned about the situation in Seattle and the response to the homelessness crisis" enough to form a political action committee, like any other sensible group of people would do. Nothing to see here.
The Stranger is continuing to look into thePAC's shady consultants, ClearPath Partners, who hired an apparent Strategies 360 shell company to execute the PAC's digital strategy, but phone calls and emails continue to go unanswered. (Quick updates for those who are following: ClearPath's John Engber, former VP of Strategies 360, who hired Western Consultants, won't pick up the phone. A man named Bryan Quinn signed the contract between ClearPath and Western on behalf of Western, and Amazon's Director of Publishing Services is named Bryan Quinn, but that Quinn claims he didn't sign the contract. "I’m not involved in Seattle politics," he wrote.)
Update 8/6, 3:30: In a statement, Paul Queary, senior vice president of communications at Strategies 360, says the large public relations firm set up Western Consultants "some time ago to do political campaign work" and claims they didn't set it up "specifically for this project." Queary added that "Strategies 360/Western Consultants had no larger strategic role" in the creation of Moms for Seattle, and that "the Bryan Quinn affiliated with Western Consultants does not work for Amazon."
When asked to answer follow-up questions, Queary said, "That's all we've got to say."
I, of course, had many other questions to ask them, including: Who else works at Western? What other political campaign work have they done, considering that they haven't done any other work in Washington before 2019 and are only one PAC's vendor? When, exactly, was Western registered as a company? Why did you make Western's connection to Strategies 360 so difficult to find by registering it in a different state under Political Partners LLC?
Until I get the answers to those questions, in the meantime, it's worth briefly noting the policies that animate Moms for Seattle, which can be gleaned from this weekend's reporting and from their spokesperson's Facebook posts.
This extremely wealthy group of women cloaks their law-and-order ideology in a family values veneer. Though the Moms claim to support "housing first" approaches, their stated views and policy positions echo the "Seattle Is Dying" crowd, who have pitched solutions such as shipping the homeless off to island jails, farm jails, and who apparently believe without evidence that there's an epidemic of children stepping on needles in parks. Flying in the face of science and data, the Moms adamantly oppose safe consumption sites, which might help with that needle problem.
One sort of long Facebook post from Moms spokesperson Laura McMahon sums up their views nicely. In the post, McMahon repeats "Seattle Is Dying" talking points about the Medical Assisted Treatment program in Rhode Island, and advocates for forcing the homeless into FEMA-style tents so that people cannot "choose to live in the streets." She claims Seattle's "encampment dwellers...refuse services because they have adopted a street lifestyle," and that "most of these folks have transplanted here because of the liberal policies." She goes on to praise the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce for creating a PAC called CASE "to help local business and restaurants who have paid a heavy price for this crisis."
Just to take those points one at a time:
• Sweeping homeless people into FEMA-style tents? So much for "housing first." This dehumanizing policy would mean forcing people to abandon their belongings against their wishes, all while wasting money on a temporary solution that won't solve the main problem that people have, which is housing.
• People don't "choose to live in the streets" because they want to. They refuse shelter and services because they believe it's the best option for them, given their situation. As Dan Malone, director of DESC told The Stranger last month, "When you offered them housing they had control over and that didn't come with a lot of strings, they accepted that readily."
• No, most of our homeless population have not "transplanted" here because of the "liberal policies." According to the Seattle Times, a vast majority of King County's homeless (83%) say they are from King County.
• If you think that "local business" and "restaurants" are paying the highest prices for this crisis, I just don't know what to tell you, except that your perspective is incredibly skewed. Let's set aside the obvious fact that the homeless are paying the highest price for the homeless crisis and address the "prices" businesses pay, which they claim is property crime and theft. American workers lose more money to wage theft than to property crime by a very large amount. And even if they didn't, property crime and violent crime in Seattle have reached historic lows, and some studies show that homeless people are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime than housed people. The ideology driving this whole thing is a hatred and disgust of poor people. And the only solutions that will emerge from this ideology are short-sighted, brutal, and dehumanizing ones.
The Moms have not responded for a request for comment from The Stranger, but I'll update if I hear back.
In the meantime, since the Moms have been "revealed," the PAC has raised thousands of more dollars. Cathy Huber, a Bellevue philanthropist and apparent Urban Restoration stan, dropped $1,000. They also reported a $2,500 donation from developer Greg Dunfield.