“There are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effect. Place before the eyes of such men a post of honor that shall at the same time be a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it.” – Benajmin Franklin (1787 Constitutional Convention)
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I’ve been following politics in the City of SeaTac for many years and Franklin’s words keep coming back to me. SeaTac is an unusual little community, with out-sized influence over control of the Sea-Tac Airport. It is “low-hanging-fruit” for political power, because with a small investment of time and money–manipulating only a few thousand voters in this small community–the power-brokers can hold sway over a huge financial power-house. Particularly, it tends to attract politicians and political operatives who want to wield these levers of power for their own selfish benefit, precisely because of their love of power, and their love of money.
Since at least 2013 one such power-broker has operated with near impunity in SeaTac. It’s a for-profit political campaign consultancy named Win Power Strategies. The head of this company is John Wyble, and I’ve filed numerous Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaints because of financial irregularities and shady actions of the campaigns that his company has supported (See here, here, here, here, and here). Literally millions of dollars have flowed through this little company to get their people elected to power–not just in SeaTac, but all over Washington State. Their campaigns tend to often lack the transparency that the people of Washington State truly intended under the current campaign finance laws.
Early on Wyble connected with the then City of SeaTac Mayor, Mia Gregerson (She was voted out of office in 2015). In fact, their relationship became an interesting story in itself, which I explored in my complaints to the PDC regarding campaign disclosures of Gregerson, who is still a sitting member of the Washington State House of Representatives. Eventually Gregerson became openly involved with Wyble around the time when she and her husband divorced. In fact, she even placed Wyble on the title of her 3 homes in SeaTac, for “love and affection” according to the King County property records. (See here) Elected officials are required to disclose the incomes of their spouses and registered domestic partners, but because Gregerson and Wyble keep an official distance between themselves (on paper) they do not have to disclose his income on her annual Financial Affairs Disclosure form (F1). In response to one complaint which I filed with the PDC, Gregerson herself described her relationship with Wyble as her “significant other.” (See here). The properties are listed by King County in both their names (see here). So the people of Washington State, who have demanded campaign disclosure laws specifically for the purpose of greater transparency, now find an opaque wall of secrecy instead, which is interesting.
Gregerson has also been involved with Wyble in his campaign business as “Operations Director” and/or “Account Assistant” of Win Power Strategies. On her F1 to the PDC for 2022 she reported somewhere between $0 and $29,999 in income as “Account Assistant” (see F1 here), presumably with some oversight of campaign accounts. Ironically, this “Account Assistant” also admitted guilt to the PDC of having “improperly used surplus funds” from her own campaign account, requiring reimbursement of $10,000 to correct. (See here.) This violation of campaign finance law was a very convoluted trail for me to “follow the money” which most members of the public would find impossible to sort-out. Would reimbursement of $10,000 have ever occurred without someone checking up on this money laundering operation?
Now please allow me to continue with Benjamin Franklin’s warning that I began with, because this next part is also relevant:
“And of what kind [of character] are the men that will strive for this profitable pre-eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your government and be your rulers.” – Benjamin Franklin
A “power and money” cabal has been steadily taking over control of SeaTac. They literally have the current SeaTac Mayor on their payroll–Jake Simpson is a “Principal” at Win Power Strategies (see here) while also the sitting Mayor of SeaTac. Sadly, the SeaTac voters have been asleep at the switch. These campaign “professionals” have thrust themselves into SeaTac government and are now ruling the city, motivated by power and lots of money.
I understand that some people in SeaTac are claiming that Jake Simpson, as SeaTac Mayor, has a “conflict of interest” and should recuse himself from voting on certain items. Unfortunately, a conflict of interest is a different type of problem. A conflict of interest is said to exist when an elected official stands to benefit financially (at public expense) from a particular decision or vote. In such a case, the “cure” to that problem is for the official to publicly declare the conflict and withdraw from taking any part in the deliberations or voting on that issue. For example, if an issue of re-zoning a particular area of the city is coming before the City Council, and a Councilmember stands to benefit financially from that change, then he/she should not take part in those discussions or the eventual vote. That’s what “recuse” means. However, I contend the situation with Jake Simpson is different. I believe his employment with Win Power Strategies is “incompatible” with his position on the SeaTac City Council.
The “Doctrine of Incompatible Offices” is seldom discussed and much more rare than a simple Conflict of Interest. Every state in the United States has some limitations about holding Incompatible offices. In Washington State this doctrine prohibits a person from simultaneously holding two public offices where performance of duties in one office is hampered or inconsistent because of also holding the other office. When offices are incompatible an officer can’t make impartial decisions. The “cure” for this problem is for the official to be removed from one position or the other. In fact, I believe Washington State law itself is currently inadequate to fully address this topic. It’s one of those laws that has never been fully explored and resolved by legislation; nor by case law. Some states focus primarily on the incompatibility between two public offices, whereas in other states they also identify incompatibility between public office and employment. In Washington State the Attorney General plays a central role in determining incompatibility. This is another deep “rabbit hole” to explore, because our current Attorney General is wholly incapable himself of forming a non-partisan and impartial opinion about incompatibility. I’m not an expert on the legal aspects of Incompatible Offices, so I suggest that this issue should be explored at greater depth by someone who is, then attempt to make necessary changes in RCW. Because in my opinion, the case of Jake Simpson, Mayor of SeaTac, and also Principal of Win Power Strategies, is perhaps the best example of incompatibility that I’ve ever seen. It’s impossible for him to function impartially in nearly any aspect of his job as Mayor, nor in his job as a campaign consultant. Both fellow Councilmembers and the citizens of SeaTac can never fully know if he is being motivated by a duty to the citizens, or by the many thousands of dollars being paid to him by Win Power Strategies. Or even whether other SeaTac Councilmembers are rewarding Simpson with the position of Mayor because of his prowess with managing their own City Council campaigns.
The City of SeaTac has what is referred to as the “Weak Mayor” as opposed to the “Strong Mayor” form of government. In the Strong Mayor form the Mayor is elected by the voters themselves. Such is the case in neighboring Tukwila, which in fact is holding Mayoral elections this year. On the other hand, with the “Weak Mayor” form, the Mayor is chosen by the other City Council members. In the case of SeaTac, one has to ask if Jake Simpson’s position as Mayor–selected by the other Councilmembers–is a result of “payback” for his work on their campaigns, allowing Simpson to essentially profit twice, since the mayor is paid more by the city than the other City Council members. But the question of impartiality with Win Power goes much deeper, and more broadly, than simply incompatibility for Simpson. It also extends to Mia Gregerson, who is not only employed by Win Power Strategies, while also a sitting Washington State Representative, and also the “significant other” of the main player at Win Power Strategies: John Wyble. (See here)
Some states (see Illinois linked here, for just one example) have a different term called an “Appearance of Impropriety.” An Appearance of impropriety is not a legal standard–it refers to conduct that appears questionable, despite being officially legal. In such a case community members might assume that a councilmember has violated some rule of law, because their actions appear improper, even if there is no legal conflict of interest. Our laws are indeed murky on this topic. Until our laws can be revised to prevent abuse by office-holders with incompatibility, we need to rely upon the voters to “throw the bums out” who are conflicted in their loyalties. Both Jake Simpson and Mia Gregerson are heavily influenced, compensated, and controlled by Win Power Strategies. Whether the term “conflict of interest” is appropriate, or Appearance of Impropriety, or quid-pro-quo, or pay to play, something smells very rotten. It’s corruption at the very core. Campaign money has bought a sitting mayor of SeaTac, and a sitting Washington State Representative–they’re both literally on the payroll of a company with an agenda.
I’m currently looking into whether or not Simpson has used his position as Mayor of SeaTac to influence the positions taken by SeaTac’s paid lobbyist. (Gordon Thomas Honeywell Gov Affairs) It appears he has successfully reversed the city’s own lobbying positions, which were previously identified as being in the best interests of the people of SeaTac, and moved those positions to represent the best interests of Mia Gregerson–the “significant other” of his boss at Winpower Strategies. I’ve filed Public Disclosure Requests (PDRs) with the City of SeaTac and found evidence to suggest that Simpson coordinated outside of the public eye, violating the Open Public Meetings Act, to sway the opinions of a majority of SeaTac City Council members. Stay tuned for more information as I research this topic even further.
The bottom line is this. Any time Wyble and Win Power Strategies engage in campaign activities, it should be a red-flag, especially to the voters in SeaTac. Wyble and company are attempting to eliminate anyone remaining on the City Council who they can’t control. So far this year Jake Simpson has donated $750 to Elizabeth Greninger to run against Peter Kwon (See here and here). I know Kwon, and while he and I don’t agree on everything, at least I know he is honest and completely independent from Win Power Strategies. The people of SeaTac are fortunate to have him–he truly works for the best interests of the people.
Oh, but the influence of Winpower Strategies in SeaTac gets worse. Elizabeth Greninger is not the only candidate supported by Winpower Strategies in SeaTac this year. They are also campaigning for a paid lobbyist to now have a seat on the SeaTac City Council—James Lovell. (See here). I respect people who are unpaid grassroots lobbyists, lobbying for things they truly believe in. More people should do this, in my opinion. To be fair, paid lobbyists will always be different, and while there is a place for them in the political world of Olympia, they are obviously beholden to those who write their checks. A paid lobbyist is not paid to be loyal to principle, but loyal to their client who pays them. A paid lobbyist will argue in favor of any position he is paid to support. He is metaphorically like a hired gun. Likewise, a paid lobbyist will argue in favor of something he doesn’t even believe in if he is paid to do so. How could Lovell possibly be impartial, on anything important to the city, when he is accepting money as a lobbyist–paid through his “real” job–to take particular political positions? How would the citizens of SeaTac ever know if he is voting in favor of them, or a “client” who is paying him?
This incestuous weird rabbit hole just gets deeper. Winpower Strategies is also supporting Damiana Merryweather this year for SeaTac City Council. The connection with Jake Simpson as Mayor gets even more interesting. The important position of Planning Commissioner is oftentimes seen as a stepping stone to running for City Council. Damiana Merryweather was recently placed on the Planning Commission by Jake Simpson, and she is paying Winpower Strategies for campaign services. The attached C4 (here is one – there are another 7) shows that Merryweather is paying Winpower Strategies for campaign services and her Treasurer is Jessica Pisane–Jake Simpson’s wife. In other words, Simpson used his position as Mayor to improve the electability of a client of Winpower Strategies, who is paying him for campaign services. In case there is any doubt about whether this was an intentional act, notice that Merryweather is using her position on the Planning Commission in the “Occupation” field of her Voter Pamphlet statement in this campaign, and the nearby image of her campaign flyer linked in this article.
I’m not as familiar with the other candidates who are running this year in SeaTac, but anyone who is not controlled by Simpson, Pisane, Gregerson, Wyble, and Win Power Strategies are likely to be safer choices, unless you are part of the cash gravy train they control. Personally, if I were a voter in SeaTac, I’d ask Peter Kwon who to vote for.
OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.” IT WAS THE FOUNDERS’ INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE. IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT. IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.” UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED…