Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Campaign Participation by County Employees

If you've ever worked for the federal government, you might be familiar with the Hatch Act. It is the law that governs the participation of federal employees in elections. The Hatch Act only applies to federal employees, not state and municipal employees. Nevertheless, it's interesting to make note of the Hatch Act rules and compare them to the involvement of County employees in our local elections.

Most of the prohibitions affecting federal employees and campaigns come into effect only for partisan elections. Almost any kind of participation in nonpartisan elections is allowable. But the Hatch Act acknowledges that some elections can be nonpartisan in name only. For example, the federal employee guide to the Hatch Act says the following about nonpartisan elections being transformed into partisan elections:
Q. Can a nonpartisan election be transformed into a partisan election?
A. Yes. If state or local law mandates a nonpartisan ballot for a particular local office, there will be a presumption that the election for that office is nonpartisan. If evidence is presented, however, that shows that partisan politics actually enter the campaigns of the candidates, e.g., the [candidate] solicits the endorsement of a partisan group, advertises the endorsement of a political party, or uses the party's resources to further her campaign effort, the nonpartisan election can be transformed into a partisan one in violation of the Hatch Act. 
Since they solicited partisan endorsement, Byers, Pratt, and Stephens seem to have transformed our nonpartisan elections into partisan ones according to the standards of the Hatch Act. It's especially ironic since, if successful, they will take an oath of office to uphold the Charter, including its nonpartisan provisions.

Good thing the Hatch Act doesn't apply to Barbara Rosenkotter either (Salmon Recovery Lead for our Planning Department), since Rosenkotter is a County employee involved in the Byers campaign. Under the federal system, she might be in an especially tight spot given her role as Campaign Treasurer for Byers. The federal employee guide to the Hatch Act says:
Q. May an employee serve as the treasurer of a campaign?
A. Yes, an employee may serve as treasurer to the extent of preparing and filing campaign finance reports and paying campaign expenses. The employee would be prohibited from personally soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions. 
The latest tally of campaign fundraising puts the Byers powerhouse at a total of $20,477. The top contributors to Byers are Janet Alderton of the Friends and her husband at $900 each. They also are the top contributors to Pratt at $1,800 each (Pratt has raised $18,552). Alderton and her husband have now dished out $5,400 for the Byers and Pratt campaigns combined.

The Byers and Pratt campaigns are a world unto themselves. No other campaign has the money and network that these two campaigns have. If you believe in the 1% versus the 99%, and if you map the donors and committee members of Pratt/Byers campaigns, you end up with a group that is about 150 people in size ... roughly 1% of our little county. That 1% seems to be comprised inordinately of people (and their related organizational interests) who benefit from free flowing public funding. Including many who, as the saying goes, vote for their living rather than work for their living.

For all the talk of diversity coming out of the Byers campaign especially, I wonder how many fisherman, waitresses, and construction workers are among her supporters ... probably about as many as are on our County citizen advisory committees.


  1. Well, the train has left the station.

    And, the light at the end of the tunnel ain't the sunshine, folks.

  2. Ouch.

    Painfully but not regrettably,

    Nick Power

  3. If you are going to post select portions of the Hatch act, you should probobly at least post a link to the advisory points of the act itself (if not the entire act for us all to read). The bullet points are found at the link below.

    The Hatch act actually limits very few federal employees in their campaign activities as citizens. The act itself, which was in response to misappropriation of funds within the WPA is now generally seen as needed to prevent the federal "positions" from representing an endorsment - and thus blurring the line between partisan and non partisan politics. Interestingly, a large segment of the federal payroll is exempt for the requirements of the act specifically because it served to restrict their freedom of speech. More interestingly is that the Hatch Act has NO bearing on state and local issues - so why the hell are we making it an issue here?

    I will continue to say that the issue of endorsment is a losing arguement and in my opinion, the TH is barking up a dead tree. The freedom to endorse a candidate for political office is rooted in the most fundamental right that we have - even for those who work as employees of the county. If we continue to beat the drum that allowing an entity to endorse a candidate is wrong and a violation then aren't we saying that the freedom of speech should be curtailed when it comes to non-partisan elections?

    Sorry folks, I am not willing to conceed my freedom of speech simply because another chooses to assert that very same freedom. The constitutional freedoms that we enjoy are not to be selected when convienient. I have a hard time arguing that the county has no right to infringe on my property while at the same time telling someone that I am OK with a governmental action (The Charter)infringing on 1st ammendment rights. I say we let every endorsment possible come through. Endorsments can cut both ways and the effect is not always positive.

    Bring us your Rosenkotters & your Kutches - your huddled funny named endorsers yearning to be free!


  4. I dunno. I find the part about non-partisan campaigns being transformed into partisan campaigns very interesting.

  5. I don't know what Anonymous#2 is in a twist about. The post isn't about endorsements from people, it's about endorsements from parties. The post explicitly says that the Hatch Act doesn't apply at the state and local level.

    Endorse away, but when the parties are involved it's a different matter, at least for feds.

    I find it interesting to see the Act's definition of partisan transformation too, especially since our nonpartisan Charter provides no definition.

  6. The fact is that the involvement of the parties has been restricted by our Charter. If that's a free speech or First Amendment issue, then Anonymous #2 should disagree with that. Maybe Anonymous #2 is arguing that nonpartisan elections violate the First Amendment? If that's what Anonymous#2 is saying, then he/she should say so.

    It's obvious, though, we have a problem in this county with nonpartisan elections that are partisan in reality.

  7. Not a free speech issue. It's about ACTIVITIES of government employees in campaigns. It's a perfectly legitimate topic of discussion.

    I don't like the idea of county employees taking leadership roles in local campaigns. They can have all the free speech they want, but their participation in campaigns is complicated. If they run for office, it's complicated. I don't know if it should be restricted, but it's complicated.

  8. Oh, but look at the money. Some folks obviously have themselves in a huge lather about some perceived threat.

    As far as I can tell and I've been watching closely, there is no property rights group going off the rails with unconscionable demands and some huge network with the blatant idea of controlling everything that stands upright in the San Juan Islands.

    Has there been even one reported incidence of some property owner or builder doing something terrible to the land here...can't think of anything...neither can I.

    On the other hand, well we don't even need go there do we. To keep it short, let's just agree that there is a continuing completely unjustified and unnecessary effort of those upset people currently dumping large sums of money in what they have turned into a highly partisan campaign to continue to kick the living snot out of clean living people who pay their taxes and ask only to be left alone.

    I know nothing about Lisa Byers other than the fact she has taken large donations from people strongly tied to a pressure group that loves to beat up on lowly single family property owners.

    No thanks.

    Is it: Lisa Byers, forthright, accomplished, smart, independent problem solver, or; FOR LEASE Byers, Contact FOSJ For Terms.

    Right now, with 20K in the til, it looks like the latter.

  9. You have your ballot now.

    Are we about to get the best local government money can Byers?

    I am pretty sure we got the Best Available Science money can Byers...

    Ah Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. We hardly knew ye. What a shame you have done this to yourself.

    As to Barbara Rosenkotter. Can she really Speak for the Fish, work for the County, get paid by the Puget Sound Partnership and rattle the cup for the Ubercrats?

    I will defend to the death her right to such venality, lack of ethics, decorum, common courtesy and good judgment.

    Then I will work like hell to help her go look for honest employment, far, far away.

    Janet Alderton, Bug Lady of the Friends, larges single contributor to both campaigns?

    Give me a break.

  10. Where is Brian McClerren?

    Here is his perfect chance via an open public letter to level the playing field by demanding Pratt/Byers/Stephens kick back the tainted money to the smelly people it came from.

    It is a County wide election. All votes count.

    McClerren challenges all candidates to come clean and fight clean on a level playing field.

  11. I heard last weekend that Lovel Pratt --while coyly wondering aloud whether to run--had tied up principal advertising space in the "news"papers through the general election.

  12. TH Help-

    All this talk of endorsers and money brought me to the Public Disclosure website.

    Can someone explain to me what is required for reporting? I'm looking at the Orcas Candidates in particular. While she may have raised a ton of money, at least byers finances make sense. How do the reporting requirements work? When I look at the other candidates, the show $3-$5000 raised, but when you look at their donor list you don't even get to half of that??!!

    Anyone care to educate the uneducated?

  13. We have been pelted in the last few weeks by campaign advertising. There are half page print ups in the paper and a handful of very expensive postcards in the mail. All of this has me questioning, "Does money really win elections?"

    A striking feature of Lisa and Lovell's ads are large blocks of names from Alderton to Zee. I put a great deal of time into studying these lists and compared them with the list of supporters which I have compiled.

    In the end I concluded that those whose names are printed in the paper have nothing to lose by publicly endorsing a candidate.

    My list cannot be published, you see. My supporters cannot afford to make waves with those who provide their income. My supporters are business owners, self-employed, service providers, builders, bankers, teachers, secretaries, cooks, mechanics, market farmers, equipment operators, lawyers, and landscapers.

    Please forgive my lack of paid advertising. I can assure you that it in no way indicates a lack of support. I promise to make up for it in public forums after this Primary is over. If my band of working stiffs can pull some cash together we'll get some promotion rolling. Keep the great dialog flowing.


  14. Probably the candidates own money. But that should also be reported.

  15. The early reports for Byers and Pratt also didn't seem to quite add up, but they improved with time. I'm not sure whether that's a database issue or a reporting issue or both, but obviously, there are some questions.

    Also, I think part of it can be explained by "debt" or loans to the campaign. For example, depending on how one interprets the data, it looks like some candidates are primarily financed by debt so far, in which case they would show more money than would be suggested by their contributors. I think the previous commenter is also correct in pointing out that a candidate's personal contributions show up in the top line but not in the contributor list.

    In short, I think the discrepancies are mainly because of self-financing by debt and candidate contributions.

  16. I think in-kind (i.e., non-cash) contributions also come into play. I don't think in-kind contributions are typically listed in the list of contributors.