“Progressive” Seattle Mayoral Candidate Exposed as Shill for the Private Prison Industry
By Ken Silverstein
“I’m running for Mayor so every family can see their future in Seattle,” says Casey Sixkiller. “It requires bold action, leadership experience when it matters most, and a mayor who wakes up every day focused on rebuilding a more equitable, inclusive, and thriving city.”
One can understand why Sixkiller, now Seattle’s deputy mayor, would be running to the left. His hometown is one of the most liberal cities in the country and heavily Democratic. A nonpartisan primary will be held on August 3 and the general election takes place on November 2. Given the city’s political makeup, only a perceived liberal candidate stands a chance to win.
That explains why Sixkiller, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, constantly hypes his alleged liberal credentials. He’s “an advocate for social and environmental justice, and a firm believer that government can be a powerful force for change,” says his website.
But while claiming to be progressive, Sixkiller has been working as a Washington, DC lobbyist for corporate interests since 2007. His clients included private prison companies, oil and gas firms, weapons makers, and even a CIA front company, Evergreen Air, a transportation firm. His wife, Mariah, currently runs a Washington, DC lobbying firm, Sixkiller Consulting, which Sixkiller founded and of which he still appears to be a partial owner. Her clients have included Noble Energy, Chevron, and Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm that has been accused of paying “illegal kickbacks to fixers for inside information and introduction to contacts,” according to the British newspaper The Guardian.
The local media in Seattle has generally failed to cover Sixkiller’s lobbying activities, so city residents -- and voters -- may not be aware of his record of shilling for shady private interests. In a profile, The Seattle Times mentioned Sixkiller’s work as a lobbyist but only identified one of his more dubious clients, Dyncorp, a military contractor. “His firm’s clients included multiple tribes and nonprofits, King County, Motorola Solutions, a trade group for software makers, the pharmaceutical company Allergan...Dyncorp International and the fishing company Ocean Peace,” said the story, in an entirely benign description of his work.
A story in The Stranger didn't even call him a lobbyist but falsely identified him as a “consultant.” The article didn’t identify a single one of his clients.
“With plenty of qualified candidates, surely Seattle deserves a better mayor than Sixkiller who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for the private prison industry to cage immigrants and prisoners at a profit,” said Paul Wright, director of the Human Rights Defense Center and editor of Prison Legal News.
In addition to the ethical issues raised by Sixkiller and his wife lobbying for such troubling -- and very non-progressive -- clients, this raises clear questions about potential conflicts of interest if he becomes mayor. Will Sixkiller side with people of Seattle or with his and his wife’s clients?
I asked Sixkiller to comment for this story. “You portray yourself as progressive but you lobbied for private prison companies, arms companies, oil and gas firms and even a CIA airline,” I wrote in an email to his campaign. “Your wife still runs a lobbying firm that you appear to be a partial owner of.” My questions followed:
---How is lobbying for clients like [yours] progressive?
---How much money did you make as a lobbyist, from 2007 until today?
---Do you still lobby? If so, for who?
---How is it not a conflict of interest for your wife to be a lobbyist if you are the mayor of Seattle? Will you represent the city or your wife's clients?
So far Sixkiller has not replied. If he does I’ll update this story.
Lobbying for the Imperial War Machine and the Police State
Sixkiller served as a Legislative Officer for the Cherokee Nation in Washington, D.C. for
two years, as a Congressional aide for Rep. Jim McDermott for one and as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Patty Murray for three. He left her staff in late-2006 and immediately went to work at McBee Strategic Consulting, leaving at the same time as Rick Desimone, Murray’s chief of staff, who would rise to become a principal at McBee, which is now known as Signal Group. McBee was known as a premier “revolving door” lobbying shop because virtually all of its lobbyists were former Congressional staffers.
During the period Sixkiller worked at McBee, from 2006 until 2010, he represented a Who’s Who list of some of the country’s most ethically-challenged clients. These included Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), now known as CoreCivic, which is the largest for-profit prison company in the United States. It runs dozens of private prisons, jails and immigration detention camps across the country. As PLN has extensively reported over the past three decades, Corecivic is synonymous with abuse and corruption ranging from defrauding the government, to short staffing its prisons and high rates of violence and escapes.
Firms like McBee and lobbyists like Sixkiller are critical to the profitability of America’s private prison complex -- and they get paid well for their work. Between 2007 and 2010, when Sixkiller left the firm, CCA paid McBee $990,000, according to records posted by OpenSecrets.org, a watchdog group that tracks campaign contributions and lobbying activities. McBee was one of the key lobbying firms working “to Keep Migrants Behind Bars,” according to this article by Americas Program.
McBee and Sixkiller also represented a number of other firms that don’t exactly burnish his reputation as a “progressive.” These include Alliant Techsystems, the “nation’s largest manufacturer of ammunition” and manufacturer of assault rifles.”
Savage Arms, part of the Alliant family of companies, is a producer of assault-style rifles and became embroiled in controversy while Sixkiller lobbied for the firm. From 2001 through 2010, Savage Arms allegedly produced a hunting rifle that exploded when fired, causing multiple people to suffer severe injuries, including finger amputation, burns, and hearing loss.
The 10ML-II rifle was discontinued by Savage Arms in 2010 after nine years of production. The company never issued a recall notice or safety warning that the rifles on the market were a safety hazard, despite reporting and allegations in lawsuits indicating Savage Arms was aware of the defective design. The gun manufacturer argued that the explosions were caused by user error and improper loading of the rifle. The company is facing an ongoing class-action lawsuit, with reports indicating the company has claimed that reported problems with the firearm are due to user error.
While at McBee, Sixkiller also lobbied for Evergreen International Aviation, a CIA-linked private air force based in Oregon that bought up Air America’s assets in the mid-1970’s. The company flew the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran after he was overthrown in 1979 and was linked to mysterious missions to El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s when the CIA was attempting to overthrow the Nicaraguan government and supporting right-wing military dictatorships. Amnesty International labeled it as a covert carrier in a report on the CIA’s “rendition” flights that transported terror suspects to torture-friendly regimes. Evergreen paid McBee $470,000 from 2007 to 2009, when Sixkiller was assigned the account.
How Progressive is Lobbying for Oil Companies and Private Prison Companies?
After leaving McBee, Sixkiller founded Sixkiller Consulting LLC in 2010. Its other employees included his wife; Sally Adams, a former staffer for Congressman Tom O'Halleran of Arizona and Congressman McDermott; and Kate Eltrich, who previously worked for the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Even though Sixkiller had lobbied for CCA/CoreCivic which has made hundreds of millions of dollars caging immigrants, Sixkiller Consulting posed as a critic of former President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies. “Leading Republicans Join Democrats in Pushing Trump to Halt Family Separations,” said one of the firm’s Facebook posts, which linked to a New York Times story.
Meanwhile, Sixkiller Consulting took $300,000 from oil and gas giant Chevron for lobbying services. The firm’s other clients when Sixkiller lobbied included Dyncorp, the military and government contractor; Motorola Solutions, which it lobbied for Pentagon money “related to telecommunications and video surveillance equipment;” and Alliant Techsystems, a defense and aerospace firm.
Sixkiller Consulting is currently run by Mariah Sixkiller. Its only other lobbyist is Madison Strader, a former Legislative Assistant, Policy Aide, and Executive Assistant to Congressman Adam Smith. It’s not clear if Casey Sixkiller still profits from the firm, but as its founder he would unless he sold his share when he stopped lobbying for it in 2018.
The firm’s current clients include Noble Energy, for issues “related to the exploration, development, production and marketing of natural gas,” defense manufacturer Textron, Microsoft, on military-related contracts, and Millions of Jobs, a corporate front group pushing for infrastructure spending. Read: Pork Barrel cash for major government contractors.
But Sixkiller’s work for special interest and corporations doesn’t end there. Also in 2010 Sixkiller joined SNR Denton, a consulting firm, as a senior partner in the firm’s Indian Law and Tribal Representation practice. “He brings more than a decade of legislative and public advocacy work to the firm working with Fortune 500 companies, businesses operating in highly regulated industries, local and Tribal governments, and complex public agencies,” said the announcement of his hiring. “‘With the addition of Casey and his strong background in policy and tribal law, we continue to confirm our commitment to our Indian Law practice,’” said Alan R. Fedman, chair of SNR Denton’s Indian Law and Tribal Representation practice. “‘Our clients benefit from the knowledge and expertise of our Native American lawyers and professionals’.”
In 2015, he joined Leschi Group, a little known firm that was founded and is run by Desimone, Murray’s former chief of staff. According to OpenSecrets.org, he is still employed at the firm. Its only reported client is Bramble Berry, a soap company.
In January 2018, Sixkiller took a position as Chief Operations Officer with King County Executive Dow Constantine. This begs the question as to whether Sixkiller completely unwound his lobbying and financial interests before he took that job, or did he receive lobbying income from special interests while he was a high ranking employee for Constantine?
One thing is clear, though. Sixkiller’s history as a hired gun for such a sordid and sundry group of corporations and special interests undermine any claim he has to being a fighter for ordinary residents and an advocate for inclusion and equity. As Wright of the Human Rights Defense Center asked, “Does a lobbyist who has personally profited from the caging of immigrant children, migrants and other human beings really embody progressive politics and values?”
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