Seattle Councilmember Sawant violated city law with Tax Amazon efforts, ethics commission says

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant violated city law by using her office to back the Tax Amazon effort, Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission staff said.

Sawant’s actions violated section 2.04.300 of the Seattle Municipal Code, which bars the use of city facilities to promote or oppose candidates and ballot measures. The Ethics and Elections staff also said she violated 4.16.070 B.2, which bars the use of city resources for something other than a city purpose when she posted hyperlinks on her council website promoting a ballot initiative.

Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, included a January 25 link to a Facebook post for a Tax Amazon Action Conference with a message from Sawant.

“Our movement is picking up steam!” Sawant wrote. “On January 13, we held a powerful launch rally of our Tax Amazon 2020 campaign, with 500 people rocking Washington Hall to Tax Amazon and big business to build social housing. Now join my council office and a coalition of progressive labor and renters’ rights organizations – alongside hundreds of working people in Seattle – at the first of our grassroots democratic Tax Amazon conferences. Let’s come together as a movement to discuss different proposals for an Amazon Tax, including how much it should raise annually, what it should fund and what tax mechanism we should use, as well as to organize the grassroots strategy needed to win.”

Barnett also included a Tax Amazon proposal in which Sawant said the group needs to collect 22,000 valid signatures of registered Seattle voters by late May to guarantee a spot on the November ballot.

A third example was a poster for a February 9 Tax Amazon Action Conference that encourages people to join and includes the City of Seattle seal and lists the Office of Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

"I’m disappointed to see this complaint filed against my office and our movement,” Sawant said part of a written statement. “It’s shameful that while big business has license to run amok trying to bully or buy politicians - just look at our last election cycle - working people have to follow the most onerous of restrictions.”

Sawant said she looks forward to meeting with the commission to resolve the matter.

A hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. March 4 in Room 4080 of the Seattle Municipal Tower.