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Councilmember Licata Calls for Fix to Ethics Code in Response to Developer Shakedown

SEATTLECouncilmember Nick Licata delivered a letter to the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission (SEEC) today, asking that the independent body develop legislation intended to sanction people or organizations that attempt to bargain with candidates by threatening to use independent expenditures in local elections.  The request comes in response to a recent Seattle Times report on allegations that a then-employee of Triad Development Group approached a candidate running for local office and offered to help make a $200,000 independent expenditure “go away,” in exchange for settling a lawsuit.

Licata asked the SEEC to develop a solution to ensure any future similar independent expenditure coordination is clearly illegal. While Seattle has laws governing independent expenditures, there don’t appear to be laws governing potentialindependent expenditures.

“Public trust is undermined by the lack of a clear, unambiguous prohibition in the Seattle Ethics and Elections Code of these activities that could be construed as unethical coercion at best, extortion at worst. Clear lines must be established,” wrote Councilmember Licata in his letter. He added, “Even an appearance of potential corruption deeply damages our civic life.”

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission is an independent committee of seven citizen volunteers. The Commission is responsible for interpreting and applying the Seattle Ethics, Elections, Election Pamphlet, and Whistleblower Protection Codes and the City’s Lobbying Regulations.

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