It’s hardly surprising that Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant dragged out a straightforward ethical charge for more than a year — and contested the situation before the state Supreme Court — before admitting she did wrong. Contrition is not in her political arsenal.
The city’s prolonged effort required for even this begrudging admission adds to the reasons Sawant’s recall needs to go onto the ballot. District 3 voters should sign the petitions now arriving in their mailboxes. Recall Sawant organizers need 10,687 valid signatures to remove her from office.
Sawant admitted in writing May 7 what the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission charged in February 2020: that spending $1,758 of city money to tout a “Tax Amazon” ballot initiative used city resources for campaigning, breaking a well-established prohibition. Sawant spent month after month arguing that she couldn’t possibly have known the ban applied to initiatives even before the paperwork is filed. That thin claim of naiveté fits with Sawant’s sorry history of stretching credulity. Voters must see through it and understand that her constant speaking out of both sides of her mouth is holding Seattle back.
Sawant has been elected three times to the council and has had ample time to learn the city ethics code. She is paid a professional salary and has a professional staff. Yet even after being specifically told in January 2020 she had crossed the line, she stubbornly kept putting public resources, including her section of the city website, toward campaigning for the cause.
The ethics settlement included a fair fine of $3,516 — double what she spent from city coffers to hawk her business-chilling payroll tax. But that came with no evidence Sawant learned from the experience. In a “Why I settled the ethics complaint” web posting, she denied “willful” violation, puffed a smokescreen of what-aboutism by describing actions of council members and candidates in years past, and landed her diatribe evoking police killings and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s protest decisions — as if any of this justified her spending public money wrongly.
Voters must focus on the issues despite her stamina for spewing rhetorical fog.
This isn’t about the former council members, Durkan, Jeff Bezos or “the political establishment” Sawant rails about. This is about a council member who justifies her reasons for breaking ethics rules, denies taking any leading role in marching on Durkan’s house, let hundreds of people into City Hall during a pandemic shutdown — and cannot admit responsibility or attempt civil governance. She has shown repeatedly since the 2019 elections that voters should reconsider her fitness for office.
District 3 deserves better. The Sawant recall should give voters the chance to make this clear despite Sawant’s constant obfuscation. Her socialist beliefs don’t make her a bad officeholder. Her actions do. Sign the petitions.