BY NAN BAILEY
SEATTLE, Washington - "The Socialist Workers campaign appeals to all unionists, young fighters, and supporters of democratic rights to support the fight we launch today to protect the privacy of contributors to the party's election campaigns and candidates for public office," said Scott Breen, Socialist Workers candidate for mayor of Seattle, at a September 12 press conference here. Breen is a member of the International Association of Machinists and works at The Boeing Co. The Seattle Times and radio stations KIRO, KOMO, and KUOW, the local National Public Radio affiliate, covered the news conference.
The event was called to protest the September 10 decision of the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission (SEEC) to deny the Socialist Workers campaign an exemption from disclosing the names of campaign contributors and vendors. Socialist Workers campaign treasurer Jeff Powers called the ruling, "an attack on the democratic rights of all working people and workers organizations. It violates our first amendment right to privacy and freedom of association."
According to the Seattle Times, failure to comply with the disclosure laws could "result in late penalties and up to a $5,000 fine imposed by the commission."
The SEEC granted an exemption to the Socialist Workers campaign in 1993, and a similar exemption was won from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) in 1996. In March of this year, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) granted a six-year extension to the Socialist Workers' exemption in federal campaigns.
"These rulings," Breen explained, "have been based on a proven history of harassment, surveillance, and other disruptive efforts by the FBI and other government agencies against individuals identified with the Socialist Workers campaigns." Socialist Workers City Council candidate Robbie Scherr also spoke at the press conference.
Three other city council candidates have made statements to the SEEC in support of the right of the Socialist Workers campaign to keep its list of donors private. "I believe in the First Amendment's protection for freedom of political speech," stated city council candidate Jon Bartholomew. "That protection must include the right to not be persecuted for that speech. Donating to political parties or campaigns is political speech."
Sherry Harris, also a candidate for city council, wrote, "The history of negative treatment of people who belong to alternative political parties in this country has mandated a need to protect individuals from harm when they step outside of the mainstream political parties... I urge you to strongly consider concurring with the State and Federal Elections Commission on this issue."
Since 1971, when the federal government began requiring detailed reports listing contributors to political campaigns, the Socialist Workers campaign committees have refused to comply with these procedures. The SWP has mounted a successful legal and political battle to defend the right to privacy of those who contribute to the SWP election efforts. Since party members and supporters have long been targeted by police agencies and rightist outfits, the SWP has argued that such a disclosure would constitute a ready- made "enemies list."
Breen quoted from this year's FEC ruling in his statement to the press. The ruling concluded that the "SWP and persons publicly associated with it have experienced a significant amount of harassment from private sources in the 1990 - 1996 period," and that "such harassment appears to have been intended to intimidate the SWP and persons associated with it from expressing their political views." The opinion added that there is "also evidence of continuing harassment by local police."
The SEEC voted 6 -1 to deny the exemption to the Socialist Workers campaign this year, saying that the campaign failed to demonstrate that divulging the names of contributors would put them in jeopardy. The Seattle Socialist Workers campaign submitted several examples of local harassment and intimidation in the past year to substantiate its request for an extension. Nationally, the Socialist Workers campaign submitted approximately 70 examples of such harassment to the FEC and two of these examples were of incidents that took place in Washington state.
The Socialist Workers campaign is demanding that the SEEC reconsider its request and overturn the denial of an exemption. The socialist candidates and their supporters intend to speak out publicly against the SEEC ruling at every campaign event. An election night reception at the campaign offices on September 16 and a Militant Labor Forum on September 19 will also protest the ruling.
The Socialist Workers campaign committee is asking supporters of democratic rights to help by calling or sending letters of protest to the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission at 226 Municipal Building, 600 Fourth Avenue, Seattle WA 98104. Phone: (206) 684-8500. Fax: (206) 684-8590.
Nan Bailey is a member of IAM Local 1103.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home