Seattle City Council elections are just around the corner, and there’s talk of a possible sea change at City Hall propelled, in part, by the spendy influence of area business interests.
With that in mind, it seems an accounting of recent lobbying spending by area companies and business groups might be a way of gauging which players already have a wager in the game ― and the results might surprise some casual observers of the process. The city of Seattle defines lobbying as “communicating with City Council members, legislative department staff, the mayor, or the mayor’s staff in an attempt to influence legislation.”
One twist is that the usual suspect, e-commerce giant Amazon, is not at the top of the list, which ranks companies by money spent on lobbying the city of Seattle between the beginning of 2018 and the end of first-quarter 2019, the most recent figures available via the city’s Ethics and Elections Commission.
In fact, Amazon ranked eighth among the top 10 spenders, at $45,095 spent on five lobbyists active during the period, records show, with “taxation” being the prime lobbying topic.
Ranking first is a company not likely on the radar of many: Filld, which is a fuel-service company offering gas delivered to your car. It spent a total of $75,000 on one lobbyist between Jan. 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, city records show. The company’s primary lobbying hot button was “issues related to mobile-fuel delivery.”
Coming in second was telecom and cable-services provider Comcast, at $70,300, with four active lobbyists during the period focused on “regulatory matters” and “permitting.” The Washington Retail Association ranked third, at $66,000 spent on two lobbyists, with a focus on tax issues as well as “paid sick and safe time.”
Real estate company Clise Properties Inc. ranked fourth in spending on lobbying over the period, at $60,000 spent on one lobbyist focused on “transportation issues, including the Battery Street Tunnel and proposed Bell Street cycle track; tax issues, including the proposed waterfront Local Improvement District; public safety issues, including homelessness; [and] land-use issues.”
A billboard company, Lamar Advertising/Clear Channel, commanded the No. 5 spot, with $52,500 spent on one lobbyist focused on “sign-code regulations,” records show. At No. 6 was the rideshare company Lyft, with $52,000 paid to two lobbyists devoted to, of course, “ridesharing matters.” At No. 7 was lodging-rental platform Airbnb Inc., with $48,750 spent on two lobbyists devoted to getting City Hall’s ear over “home-share regulations.”
Another real estate-related company, Vulcan Inc./City Investors LLC, held down the No. 9 spot (behind No. 8 Amazon), racking up a $38,400 lobbying bill over the 15-month period working with three lobbyists focused on issues related to taxes and housing affordability. Rounding out the top 10 lobbying spendy business concerns was the American Beverage Association, with $37,500 spent on one lobbyist, with no specific issues identified in the city records.
So that’s the lay of the land as of the end of the March with respect to Seattle’s business lobby. We’ll have to wait until after Nov. 5 to get the lay of the land on Seattle’s new City Council.