The opponents of Honest Elections Seattle, I-122, have repeated, in the King County voters’ pamphlet, the same facepalm-inducing falsehoods that I’ve already corrected. They also introduce a new claim—a gobsmackingly offensive and nonsensical one. I-122, it says:
“- Bars many minority-owned small businesses from participating in the political process.”
Yet I-122 says not one single word about minority-owned small businesses. This claim is a whopper ginned up to frighten and confuse voters. It has no basis in reality.
I-122 would give all registered voters in Seattle, including small business owners, $100 of Democracy Vouchers to support candidates of their choice. That’s a radically democratizing plan, one that will amplify the voices of people of color and low-income families. Indeed, the egalitarian appeal of Democracy Vouchers helps explain why so many organizations that speak for people of color have endorsed it, including:
It’s hard to even come up with an explanation for such hot garbage. But I sat and thought about it for a while, setting aside my sense of indignation at the naked offensiveness of the proposition. Eventually, I came up with one shaky hypothesis that the opponents of I-122 might have had in mind.
I-122 bans contributions from those who spend heavily ($5,000 or more per year) on lobbying city hall and those who earn big money ($250,000 every two years) from city contracts. In theory, some of the companies affected by these bans might be minority-owned (though, it’s unlikely they would be small). So, I checked.
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Sightline looked up every company that would have been affected by the lobbyist and contractor contribution bans in recent elections, had they been in place. We checked Washington State’s online database of minority-owned small businesses—the registry where such companies sign up to qualify for programs designed to benefit them.
The egalitarian appeal of Democracy Vouchers helps explain why so many organizations that speak for people of color have endorsed it.
Of the seven companies that would have been banned from contributing by I-122 in the 2013 election cycle because they had spent more than $5,000 on lobbying city hall and actually made political contributions, not a single one of them was a minority-owned small business. All seven are, in fact, very large businesses, and all had huge amounts of money at stake in city policy disputes, which is why they spent big on lobbying and contributions—and which is why I-122 would have sidelined them during the fundraising season.
The ubiquitous ridesharing network Lyft, for example, is not a minority-owned small business. Clise Properties, which owns and manages over three million square feet of real estate in downtown Seattle, is not a minority-owned small business. The Rental Housing Association, the trade association for Seattle landlords, is not a minority-owned small business. Cedar Grove Composting, billboard advertiser Clear Channel Outdoor, and industrial cement maker CalPortland are not minority-owned small businesses. And district-energy generator Seattle Steam (now called Enwave)? Nope. It is not a minority-owned small business either. Zero for seven so far.
Of the 22 entities that would have been banned from contributing by I-122 in the 2013 and 2015 elections because they had earned more than $250,000 in city contracts over the preceding two years, how many are minority-owned small businesses? Let’s check. Here’s the list, in descending order, by size of contribution.
- Microsoft is many things, but “minority-owned small business” is not among them.
- CH2M Hill, with engineering operations on five continents, is not a minority-owned small business.
- HDR Engineering is not a minority-owned small business.
- Marianne Bichsel’s public affairs firm is not a minority-owned small business.
- HNTB Corporation is not a minority-owned small business. (Do these 10 men look like minority business owners to you?)
- David Evans & Associates is not a minority-owned small business.
- Kalispel Tribe is a Native American tribe, but it is not a minority-owned small business.
- K&L Gates, which advertises its legal counsel available around the world, is not a minority-owned small business.
- Griffin, Hill & Associates, LLC is—ta-dah!—a minority-owned small business. That’s one!
- MacDonald-Miller, a major mechanical contractor for buildings, is not a minority-owned small business. (The company’s management is shown here. Take a look!)
- Cocker Fennessy, a PR firm, is not a minority-owned small business.
- CDM Smith, which has more than 5,000 employees worldwide, is not a minority-owned small business. (Here are some of its employee-owners.)
- Fortune 500 company AECOM is not a minority-owned small business.
- EMC Research Inc. is not a minority-owned small business.
- Enviroissues Inc. is owned by several women, but it’s not a minority-owned small business.
- Publicly traded Jacobs Engineering Group is not a minority-owned small business.
- Parsons Transportation Group, Inc. was responsible for part of Parsons Company’s $3.1 billion in revenue last year and is not a minority-owned small business.
- Kristi Skanderup is an independent female contractor with the city, but she does not run a minority-owned small business.
- Perteet Engineering is not a minority-owned small business.
- Brian Douglas Scott Planning and Urban Design is not a minority-owned small business. (Here are Brian and his team.)
- Landau Associates is not a minority-owned small business. (Not even a little bit.)
- The Greenbusch Group is owned by a woman, but it is not a minority-owned small business.
That’s 29 companies lobbying or contracting in such ample quantities of money that they would have triggered I-122’s ban on contributions to candidates for city office. Of them, exactly one company is a minority-owned small business. One.
Griffin, Hill and Associates delivers business support services to its clients. The firm earned more than $300,000 in city contracts between January of 2013 and June of 2015, by Sightline’s estimate, for advising Seattle Public Utilities on combined sewer overflow projects. It gave a grand total of $1,300 in the 2013 and 2015 elections combined, or about $650 per election. The company would not have been able to do that had I-122 been in force. Honest Elections Seattle would stop them, just like all other big-time contractors, from helping to pay for the campaigns of officials who oversee the agencies on which they depend for their livelihoods. That’s as it should be.
But still, Carl Griffin and Joann Francis, the principals of the company, would have been able to donate $200 in Democracy Vouchers each election, assuming they are registered to vote in Seattle. That’s the opposite of barring them from “participation in the political process.” It’s encouraging participation.
That’s the truth—something the opponents of Honest Elections Seattle seem little acquainted with.