Anti-Democracy Voucher Lawsuit Only Protects the Interests of the 1%

The recent lawsuit filed by Pacific Legal Foundation represents a desperate attempt to claw back Seattle’s groundbreaking reforms to rein in big money interests that poison our democracy. One study found in a recent election only 1.5 percent of Seattleites donated to a local campaign; typically wealthier households that can afford to do so. This lawsuit clearly demonstrates that the Pacific Legal Foundation is only interested in protecting the interests of the 1%.

I’m very proud of the depth and breadth of grassroot support our campaign has received from all over Seattle; both homeowners and renters. We have the most unique donors of any campaign with over 2,600 people from all walks of life who have donated their Democracy Vouchers; homeless folks, LGBTQ folks, renters, homeowners, workers, and many others who are usually locked out of City Hall. To date we have raised over $195,000 with 93% of all donations sourced from the Democracy Voucher program, almost exclusively Seattle donors. That means this campaign is owned by the community; not the corporations or the lawfirms that shill for them.

In all my advocacy for tenants facing grueling uphill battles, it's important to celebrate our victories against wealthy and well-resourced developers and rental industry groups. It’s never been an easy fight and we’ve never had easy wins. But Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit clearly demonstrates that the rental industry is scared of the growing strength of tenant power. Tenants are demanding fair housing policies, protection from economic eviction, and to have their voice heard at the ballot box.

 If there is one thing that the Pacific Legal Foundation and we agree on; it’s that our campaign represents the strongest force for change for Seattle tenants. In their lawsuit they highlight our policy priority of giving tenants the right to collectively bargain over living conditions and rent affordability. If workers have the right to bargain over wages, tenants should have the backing of the city to bargain over rents. This is the same law firm who sued to block the hard fought Fair Housing First in Time legislation that protects tenants. It’s not a surprise they’re suing to stop a program designed to get more regular voters engaged in the political process.

The lawsuit claims to force homeowners to support politicians who don’t share their views. However, the Honest Elections Initiative won by over 63 percent of the popular vote; clearly Seattle voters believe the Democracy Voucher program embodies their values for an inclusive and robust democracy. They also ignore the fact that each voter, homeowners included, get to decide to support the politician who they believe shares their views and beliefs with their personal Democracy Voucher. Already the program is exceeding all expectations by seeing an explosion of participation. Our campaign is the proof of concept for the Honest Elections Initiative, and can become a national model to get corporate cash out of our political process and level the playing field for community centered politics.

Note: The original post stated that PLF had also sued move-in fee legislation. They actually had sued First in Time legislation. The error has been corrected.