Last week the Public Disclosure Commission granted an anti-Sawant PAC's request to receive and spend unlimited amounts of money in the recall election. Sure enough, big money followed shortly thereafter: In the last few days, the PAC reported several landlords, realtors, and investors adding thousands of dollars to their original donations, quickly closing the fundraising gap between the recallers and the retainers.
The PAC then turned around and spent $100,000 on a cable TV ad and $20,000 on mailers. Meanwhile, three landlords and/or developers (Bob Yeh, Peter Lee, and Xiao Yen) started another anti-Sawant PAC called Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods. According to the PDC, the PAC selected the "mini-reporting option" when it filed, which means the state will not make the organizers report any contributions/expenditures so long as they keep both under $5,000 and no one contributes more than $500.
All of this means the corporate forces aligned against Sawant will have much more money to spend on misleading ads and mailers designed to trick people into voting out the council member most focused on passing laws to protect renters from exploitative landlords.
I caught one such mailer dangling out of my apartment complex's recycling bin the other day. The Recall Sawant campaign paid for this one, and it's designed to amplify the campaign's bullshit law & order messaging by exploiting confusion around the legal and common definitions of the word "fact."
When I taught introductory composition to first-year college students, the fact that the word "fact" did not equate to "truth" always spurred confusion. The truth is, of course, that the word "fact" means something different in different contexts. For rhetoricians and lawyers, a fact is simply a statement that something exists. If I tell you I am an alien, then I am stating a fact. It's up to me to provide evidence to support my fact, and then it's up to you to determine whether it's true.
The Sawant Recall campaign heavily relies on this slipperiness in the definition of "fact" in its mailer, and it's clearly doing so to create the same kind of confusion I saw in the eyes of college freshmen.
In the mailer, the recall campaign claims that "The Washington State Supreme Court unanimously found these three charges factual for recall." Then they print a rubber-stamp graphic of the word "FACT!" next to three editorialized descriptions of the three charges the Court found "factual for recall."
Since they keep trying to muddy the waters, I'll have to keep correcting the record: "Factual for recall" does not mean that the Supreme Court decided the allegations against Sawant were true. They are not guilty verdicts. In its opinion, which was written by Justice Barbara Madsen, famous for writing the controlling opinion to stop gay people from marrying in 2006, the Court determined that those charges were grounds for a recall. In this case, the Court's job isn't to determine the truth of the allegations. It's up to voters in District 3 to determine the truth, and then it's up to voters to determine if they care enough to vote out someone they voted in two years ago.
But that truth doesn't stop the recall campaign from asserting facts they have no good evidence to support. In the mailer, for instance, they claim Sawant "chose to lead a group of protesters to the mayor's house." They produce no evidence to support that "fact," and that's probably because all of the evidence supports the "fact" that Sawant did not lead the protest. The Seattle Democratic Socialists of America and the families of victims of police violence did.
The campaign also claims Sawant "exposed City Employees to a Mob during the COVID-19 Pandemic." Not to offend any staunch liberals who nevertheless support the recall, but calling Black Lives Matter marchers who peacefully protested while wearing masks a "mob" is certainly a choice, and it's a choice often made by right-wing commenters. But, to the point, the protest happened after hours, City Hall had been closed due to the pandemic, and if there were maintenance workers in the building, then none of them reported catching COVID-19 as a result of the protest — nor did anyone else, for that matter, including the essential workers who counted themselves among the protesters.
Finally, the campaign's mailer claims Sawant "admitted guilt in using City resources to support a ballot initiative," and that she "continues to break ethics and campaign laws." The recall campaign presents no evidence that Sawant "continues" to break ethics and campaign laws, so that's just false, but it is true that Sawant acknowledged breaking an ethics rule preventing politicians from promoting ballot initiatives using office resources. However, Sawant paid the City double the amount her office spent promoting an initiative to tax Amazon, so she already paid her debt to society, just like other city officials who admitted to ethics violations, including Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Sally Bagshaw, Heidi Wills, Judy Nicastro, Jim Compton, and Mayor Greg Nickels. And yet, for some reason, those nice consensus-building politicians did not inspire a recall attempt.
Moreover, other Seattle politicians have broken the law and have even been arrested, and yet somehow they didn't inspire calls for a recall either. Cops arrested Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and 575 others for illegally protesting Trump’s family separation policy, and I haven’t heard demands to ~ hold Jayapal accountable ~ for breaking the law.
Several members of the Seattle City Council, one King County Council Member, and a couple state lawmakers joined the "mob" in the middle of a pandemic at 11th and Pine, and yet no one is threatening to recall them.
Hell, in 2014, cops arrested Sawant and four others for taking the fight for a $15 minimum wage to Alaska Airlines' doorstep. If the city tried to recall Sawant for that, then I missed it.
I know Seattle loves a pretty, cop-sanctioned march, but urgent civil rights protests sometimes involve disobeying the letter of the law, especially when the law itself is the fucking problem. To the extent that Sawant engaged in civil disobedience in charges 2 and 3, she was doing so to empower a movement dedicated to stopping police from killing Black and brown people with impunity. And not even the Seattle Police arrested her for it.
But, let's be honest. No one gives a shit about the recall charges. As the familiar donor lists and the glut of social media comments and at least one round of person-on-the-street interviews suggests, this recall vote is merely a convenient vehicle for landlords and real estate moguls to remove a politician who threatens their bottom line. Those corporate interests found common cause with wealthy or well-off District 3 residents who were more than happy to rage and seethe over Sawant for...raging and seething on behalf of poor people. I mean, here's the latest digital ad from the anti-Sawant PAC:
Only one or arguably two of the claims on this dumb ad even relate to the recall charges against Sawant. "No services for you"?? Get the fuck out of here with this cynical bullshit.