After “multiple pauses” and an impromptu interview, Councilmember Sawant updated the Socialist Alternative site with her donations in 2021 and 2022. A win for financial transparency! The site also reflects the Councilmember’s current salary of “over $140,000 a year” AND pledges to only keep $50,000 of that in solidarity with the average worker.
In another win for financial transparency, we have confirmation that Councilmember Sawant met her campaign promise for 1/9 years in office. We now know that only 68.8% of all donations made by the Kshama Solidarity Fund went to organizations financially connected to the Sawant household.
Financial Transparency Issues
But in a step backward for financial transparency, the Socialist Alternative site no longer shows the Councilmember’s post-tax income nor the annual solidarity amount. Screenshots of the Socialist Alternative site pre and post-update are below.
Screenshot of SA site 3/4/2023
Screenshot from SA 3/8/2023
Although not found on the Socialist Alternative site anymore, a table with the council member’s salary, estimated donation goal (based on worker’s salary of $40k), and the amount actually donated can be found below. Salary information comes from the most reliable source Wikipedia, and donation goal estimates are calculated using the linked site.
|Year||Salary||Est. Donation Goal||Actual donations|
The Councilmember said that she would only accept an average worker’s salary of $40,000 in 2022, once in March at a Starbucks workers rally and in a June profile in Salon magazine. But the update to the 2021 and 2022 said that she would only accept $50,000. A table with that donation goal can be found below for those years.
|Year||Salary||Est. Donation Goal||Actual donatations|
In total, Sawant donated over $357,000 over her tenure to organizations both financially connected to her household and not.
Solidarity Fund in 2022
Before the site update, the Councilmember had a remaining balance of $101,000 yet to be donated. As of today, the balance is down to $46,744. Even though the 2021 donations were severely under the donation goal (only $27,231 donated), the massive donation total of nearly $100,000 in 2022 covered that, and more. A screenshot of Kshama Solidarity fund donations in 2022 can be found below.
Screenshot of 2022 Kshama Solidarity donation report.
The Councilmember was extremely philanthropic to workers throughout the United States in 2022, the only year she met her campaign promise. The Solidarity fund gave $20,000 to Amazon Labor Union, $6,000 in direct donations to Starbucks unionization efforts, and $2,020 to MN teacher’s union.
Three “donations” stand out, two donations to the Socialist Alternative totaling $42,000 and one “donation” for $5,264 labeled “IRS Tax Payment.” Paying your taxes can further social justice and worker movements. Sometimes. But I think even the IRS would agree that paying one’s taxes is not a donation to social justice movements. It’s something that everybody is legally obligated to do.
Next, the $42,000 given to Socialist Alternative is in line with the thousands donated to her political party, but this is a complete escalation of this trend. In her nine years in office, Councilmember Sawant has donated $130,786 to the Socialist Alternative, the most for any organization.
Donations to Socialist Alternative account for 36.6% of all donations made by the Councilmember during her tenure in office
15 Now continuing to receive donations
2021 has an interesting donation as well. The Solidarity Fund donated $4,800 to 15 Now, the nonprofit created by Calvin Priest, Sawant’s husband. 15 Now has been administratively dissolved and inactive since June 2019, according to the WA Secretary of State. Since June 2019, Councilmember Sawant has donated $12,000 to 15 Now.
In total, the Councilmember donated $105,050 to 15 Now during her tenure in office, accounting for 29.4% of all donations made.
Screenshot of WA SOS site
Financial Transparency questions remain
The March 2023 update to the Socialist Alternative site has answered some questions, failed to answer others, and created a whole new set of questions.
- How much Councilmember Sawant donated in 2021 and 2022.
Questions Not Answered:
- Do massive donations made to 15 now, Socialist Alternative, and Tax Amazon create financial conflicts of interest or other ethical problems?
- What were the causes of the “multiple pauses” in updating the site for the past two years?
- Why did the Councilmember fail to meet her campaign promise 8/9 years in office?
- What is the $5,264 “IRS Tax Payment” and why was it labeled as a donation?
- What was the $42,000 Socialist Alternative donation used for?
- Why update the site not reflect the Councilmember’s current post-tax income and annual solidarity amount?
I hope that I can get these questions answered directly and honestly by the Councilmember or her team in the future.
– By Connor Nash