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Thursday, July 14, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mayoral hopeful seeks to conceal donors

Seattle Times staff reporter

A socialist candidate for mayor of Seattle is asking the city Ethics and Elections Commission to conceal the names of his campaign donors from public disclosure.

Chris Hoeppner, a member of the Socialist Workers Party, wants an exemption similar to one granted earlier this year to Linda Averill, another socialist candidate running for City Council.

City rules normally require candidates to disclose the names of donors who give more than $25. If donors give more than $100, their employers also must be disclosed.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that exemptions to contributor disclosure laws are justified in cases where fear of harassment or threats of violence against unpopular viewpoints creates a chilling effect on the willingness of people to associate with a political party or ideology.

Hoeppner is hoping for such an exemption at a special meeting of the ethics commission today.

The ethics commission granted Averill, a member of the Freedom Socialist Party, such an exemption after she won a federal lawsuit against the city in 2003.

Averill is running this year against City Council President Jan Drago. She has raised more than $9,300 so far and her contributors are identified only by code in her campaign filings. For example, her biggest donors are listed merely as "C12" and "C5," who both work for "E4."

Hoeppner said his attorney will present evidence to the commission that his donors, too, would legitimately fear harassment if identified by name. He pointed to past instances of socialists receiving threats and to the bombing of a socialist party headquarters in Pennsylvania last year.

Hoeppner, 55, is a laid-off meat packer who advocates strengthening unions and the withdrawal of "imperialist" U.S. military forces from nations including Iraq, Cuba and South Korea.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is running for a second four-year term. With a couple weeks until the July 29 filing deadline, he faces little in the way of organized opposition.

Besides Hoeppner, Nickels is being challenged by Christal Wood, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council two years ago, and Richard Lee, who hosts a public-access cable television show devoted to conspiracy theories about the death of rock star Kurt Cobain.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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