Craig Anthony Salins

Craig was born in Seattle to Alberta and Bernard Salins. He was the middle son of three, younger brother to Steve, older brother to Dan. When he was 10 his mother died after a long struggle with cancer. It was difficult in 1958 for a single dad with three sons, and Craig’s dad soon married Dorothy Pool, and her three children – Dennis and Marjorie Pool and Kathie Scott – joined Craig and his brothers in what we now call a blended family. Some time later another brother, Paul, arrived. None of us would describe the merging of these two families as idyllic. There were periods of adjustment for everyone, very often tension, somewhat less often outright conflict. But Craig never got caught up in that. For the rest of his life he never made a distinction between his “step”siblings and his “real” siblings. To him, we were family.

As you might expect (since you’re reading this, it can be assumed you know Craig), he was an excellent student in school. He was fascinated with how things worked. It wasn’t just curiosity, although he was very curious. He needed to know how things worked so he could figure out how he could use those things, usually in an unconventional way. Like many kids, he hooked up a string with a tin can on each end which ran from his bedroom window to a bedroom window of the neighbor’s house, so that he and the neighbor boy could talk to each other on their makeshift ‘telephone’. But Craig took the concept a bit further. He mounted a speaker and a microphone high up in a cedar tree that adjoined the two properties and as people walked by, he’d call out, “Hey! I’m thirsty! Can you water me, please?” He was his own Candid Camera.

When Craig was young he loved all things electronic. He bought and built Heathkit radios and amplifiers. And when the family moved to Mercer Island, to a home surrounded by woods, Craig “wired” the woods with his speakers and microphones and had his own command center down in his basement bedroom.

Craig delighted in pushing things to an extreme. Most young boys at some time or another build and try to fly their own kite. Craig was no exception. But the kite he built wasn’t just paper over some sticks glued together. It was a triangular shaped box kite, with wings. Imagine taking the traditional kite shape, cutting it down the middle and attaching each side to a box kite. Those were the wings. Oh… and it was big. Really big. Probably five feet tall, maybe more. And flimsy sticks and paper wouldn’t do. Sturdy 1×1 strips of lumber and nylon fabric stretched over the frame. And the string? High strength fishing line, thousands of feet of it. Well, you know Craig wasn’t just going to fly this thing from his backyard. So he took it to the south end of Mercer Island, to a tall bluff overlooking empty meadows, and there, where the wind always blew up the bluff, he launched his kite. Higher and higher, out of sight eventually. But it wasn’t out of sight for everyone. The pilot of the airliner who was flying the commercial jet on a flight path to SeaTac airport saw it. Saw it close up in fact, and radioed in that there was a *#%@^& KITE outside his window! Well, the Mercer Island police showed up and Craig had to reel in his kite. There was an article and a picture on the front page of the paper the next day, and this was probably the first time that federal authorities became aware that Craig wasn’t like most people.

Craig graduated from Mercer Island High School and left the next fall for Yale University. He studied science – pre-med, biology, psychology – but also became aware of the political currents that were running through the country at that time, the late 60′s. Yale was an eye-opening experience for Craig. Old money, old politics, old power. Craig’s political awareness was growing fast, and the values and beliefs that guided him and his work for the rest of his life were set.

Craig had an interesting “brush with the famous” while at Yale, or perhaps, more accurately, a “brush with the infamous”, as he might consider it. Craig’s roommate for a brief time at Yale was John Bolton, the Neocon and former Ambassador to the U.N. appointed by George Bush. When asked what Bolton was like during his college years, Craig said he was a… well… it rhymes with trick, and suggested he hadn’t changed much since then.

Craig left Yale after two years, intending to return, but wanting to get some real life experience. He joined VISTA and was placed in New Jersey, where he worked at an organization called the Somerset Community Action Program… SCAP. Somerset County, New Jersey was a mix of ultra-rich (Jackie Kennedy Onassis had an estate there) and ultra-poor. Craig’s political education accelerated during his years at SCAP. He saw how the deck was continually stacked against the poor, and especially the minority poor. He oversaw education programs for minority teens who could barely read or write, administered home weatherization programs designed to provide relief from winter’s cold for the poor and at the same time teach valuable construction skills to teens and young adults. He learned how federal funds were administered, and often mis-administered to the people and programs who needed them most. He testified before the New Jersey legislature, and made trips to Washington D.C. with his political mentors at SCAP for protests, or demonstrations, or to attend hearings on bills before Congress. Just as when he was a kid, he was satisfying his need to know how things worked.

Craig moved back to Seattle in the late 70′s and quickly became involved in the causes and issues that would concern him the rest of his life. He was Executive Coordinator for the Seattle Community Action Network, an organization which sought to educate consumers, lobby for consumer rights, and mediate on behalf of consumers who had no other recourse. He told stories during that time of organizing protests in front of businesses who had turned a deaf ear to customers they had wronged. I’m sure he was a hero to many people on whose behalf he organized protests or boycotts of businesses in order that their concerns would be heard and addressed.

He was Executive Coordinator of the Puget Sound Cooperative Federation, a clearinghouse for information, advice and support in establishing cooperative businesses. He served on the board of Puget Consumers Coop.

He also served on the board of the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority and the Central Area Motivation Program.

In the late 80′s Craig became focused on health care as a critical issue in our country. He worked as Executive Director of the American Holistic Medical Association, and later co-founded the Washington Single Payer Action Network. Craig recognized long before it became the huge issue it is now, the importance of health care and the economic impact, both on an individual and a national level, of how we pay for health care in America. He was a passionate supporter of a single payer system, and spoke often and vehemently on the stranglehold he felt that the insurance industry held on Congress and our country.

Even the most ardent of workers for political and economic change has to buy groceries and pay the mortgage, so in the late 80′s Craig formed a small construction company, CDA Construction. He remodeled homes, built additions, updated bathrooms and kitchens. He joined Carpenters Local 816, and was proud to be in the union. Craig’s gifts weren’t just political. He excelled at everything he did. Many homeowners in the Seattle area were, and are, thrilled with the work that Craig did for them, and even though he often had to take days away from his construction work in order to go to Olympia to lobby for this issue, or to go to an organizing meeting for that issue, he always got their job done, and done well.

I had many conversations over the years with Craig about various issues, and often our conversations revolved around the idea of figuring out what were the causes underlying the issues, so to speak. Craig was always on a quest to understand how things work, whether it was a washing machine, a dvd player, or our political system, he needed to understand it on a fundamental basis. He knew that so many parts of our system were broken, he wanted to get down to the fundamental problem. And that’s why he devoted his work in recent years to campaign financing reform. He realized, after working in health care, consumer rights, child development services, poverty programs, and so many other issues, that the changes necessary would never come about as long as the legislators and elected officials who could bring about those changes, were beholden to big money as a result of our campaign financing system.

In 2006 he became Executive Director of Washington Public Campaigns. He criss-crossed the state organizing, recruiting and speaking to anyone who would show up about the need to reform the way we finance campaigns. For Craig, this wasn’t just a job. There was no clocking out at 5 pm. He worked late into the night, on weekends. There was no such thing as a work schedule. Any time something needed to be done, he did it. And although, as with most non-profit organizations, there wasn’t a lot of money for salaries and supplies, Craig never let that slow him down.

Here’s the amazing thing about Craig. Craig was both intellectually brilliant and eminently competent. He understood, on a fundamental basis, so many things that many of us just have a surface knowledge of. Craig could have succeeded at anything he put his mind to. He could have made millions on Wall Street, or pursued a career based on ego. But he didn’t care about those things. He wanted to make this place a better place for all of us, but especially for those who don’t have a voice, or whose voice just isn’t heard. And he dedicated his life and his work to that goal. How many people do we know who have truly lived their life so committed to doing what they believed was right and necessary? I’ve known only one.

You’re invited to share your memories of Craig below.

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  1. Dale & Sue
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink


    After having respected Craig so much already, we are so thankful to have a much better idea of why and how he had become the wonderful man he was. His life is such an inspiration to us all. Reading about such commitment to the common good leaves us much more passionately determined to receive the torch and hold it high.
    And,now we know that he was never really “late”, but rather, always chose to follow his heart. With sadness at his passing, Dale & Sue Hurley Rector

  2. Helen Lauritzen
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Port Townsend, WA

    Craig was a wonderful human being – a talented man who gave of his gifts freely. His commitment to the higher good was an inspiring example to all who knew him. May he now raise his voice joyfully with the spirit choir, blessing all who continue to work for peace, justice and equality.

  3. bob barnes
    Posted September 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Seattle, WA.

    I don’t remember the first time Craig and i crossed paths but it seems as if i’ve known him forever. We first worked closely together in the Rainbow Coalition, trying to move the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction. He remained, even after the Rainbow was effectively purged from the party, continuing to be part of the party’s conscience.
    Most recently we found ourselves in the middle of the occupy movement, bringing a little elder insight to the mix.

    Craig did a major remodel of our kitchen several years ago. His presence will be there every time we’re in the kitchen. It was one of those jobs that took much longer than anticipated, mostly because every time we started a conversation about the job, we would find ourselves transitioned into an ad hoc meeting about whatever political campaign we were engaged in at the time.

    I will miss my comrade for his insight,humor and friendship.

  4. Betty Ogden
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Puyallup, WA 98371

    Craig was an inspiring leader of top magnitude. He could make organizers out of timid old ladies like me, giving us a new lease on life. He zeroed in on the essence of each person he encountered, and remembered and seemed to treasure everyone’s uniqueness.

    He could turn a request for more menu information into a dialogue with a waitress about the need to get big money out of politics. Next step – another signature on the WPC data base – and a new friend.

    In other words, he perpetually multi-tasked between politicalization for our cause AND the establishment of real human relationships. The fabric he has created is real, not just on paper.

    His quirky sense of humor drove me nuts. I never learned to figure out whether I was getting my leg pulled or being informed of something fantastic that I really needed to know about.

    He found the way straight into our hearts; he’s there now, and even reality cannot make him die. He will be there always, helping us spread his organizer dust from Puget Sound to the Grand Coulee – and beyond.

    Goodbye, Dear Friend. We’ll keep you alive.

  5. Bob and Patty Bender
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 4:29 am | Permalink

    Deerfield Beach, FL

    Craig came to the orbit of the Somerset Community Action Program as a VISTA about 1970, I believe, having dropped out of Yale. SCAP was a rollicking exciting militant agency where I worked from 1967-69, then related to when with the Day Care and Child Devt Council of America from 1971-73. Craig lived with us in Plainfield during the 1970s – am real rusty on these dates.(Did he work for the Union County United Way?) Then he bought a house in Plainfield. Finally he returned to his native Seattle WA for the rest of his life.
    He was a brilliant and accomplished guy. A warm guy. “Special” is an overused word but he merited it. Had keen social insights, was an accomplished grants writer and superb organizer. Indefatigable activist. Fine singer – with the Peace/Labor Choir(s?) in Seattle, led the group to Cuba several times. Worked professionally in Seattle on coops, on healthcare and most recently, the past several years, on professional activism opposing Citizens United. Intermittently earned his living as a very able carpenter.
    We were in periodic – semi-annual e-contact -and with a lot of credit to Great Networker Ron Copeland. I had hoped to visit him in Seattle but that was not to be. Earlier this year I reached out to him for his insights re Occupy, which he generously supplied.
    I’ll never forget when he overslept prior to a flight to visit Seattle. Never had a VW beattle smoked like his did with him at the wheel from Plainfield to Newark airport on Route 22. Somehow we made it,each in one piece, he on time for the flight. Took me several days to recover.

    And our old Plainfield house benefitted from the logged walls of Craig’s room that he expertly installed!

    Great loss for peoples’ movements and for his numerous comrades.

    Bob and Patty Bender,
    Deerfield Beach, FL

  6. Nancy Martin
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Like so many, my associations with Craig were from the Seattle Peace Chorus and a remodeled bathroom! He brought his special brand of passion and talent to both. One of my fondest memories is of serving with Craig on the choir board, observing him work through helping several choir members figure how to afford our concert tour of Chile… who logically could not afford to go. He problem solved, honoring each one’s needs with confidentiality and dignity-assuring skills. Vaja con Dios, mi amigo.

  7. David McLanahan
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Seattle, WA

    First met Craig in Seattle somewhere around 2008. I’m sure our paths crossed many times in the New York City area in the late 60’s & we often talked about connecting those dots over a few beers. But it was never to be, as the continuous demands of pushing critical issues forward always took precedence. In Seattle, I was forever amazed by the clarity with which he saw what needed to be done, despite the confusion perpetrated by our politicians and mass media. Although remembered well by many who worked with him on one or many of the social justice causes he put his signature on, the greatest shame is that we lost a national leader in the “get the money out of politics movement.” Accomplishing that goal would do so much to heal the social injustice that scars our lives. Sadly, he won’t be around to join in the party when that goal is accomplished.

    Craig will forever be an inspiration to those who knew him and we will always feel him behind us, pushing the banner forward.

  8. Steve Zemke
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Seattle, Washington

    Craig lived a busy life that’s for sure. He seemed to gravitate toward the hard to resolve but important issues in our lives – like heath care and the impact of big money in our political system. He was an inspiration to many and was always looking to bridge the political spectrum to find the common concerns that transcended political differences. His recent efforts in the movement to amend the US Constitution to remove corporate money from politics was just one example of his tackling huge problems and helping to shape the debate.
    Craig was always willing to talk and a conversation with Craig was sure to cover a lot of ground.
    Craig will be sorely missed but his spirit will live on in the work he did to engage and inspire and encourage folks to participate in the political process to change the world for the better.

  9. Seth Armstrong
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink


    Craig Salins held up ‘our end’ in college bull sessions with John Bolton. He was our undaunted friend and leader in Washington Public Campaigns. He worked forty years as a community organizer, networking non-stop. He has handed to us for our completion the leadership against anti-democratic purchase of public policy by special interests. He brought justice by coordinating SCAN successfully to oppose unfair consumer deals (1980-3). His dynamic energy was committed to gathering engaged members and was inspirational with effective approaches, composing a better, more fair, more democratic, way. He was inviting, elevating and unendingly civil working with others to successfully resolve consumers’ and campaign financing problems. He brought the author of “Are Elections for Sale?” to receive our award and advocated the Fair Elections Now Act in WA State, gaining Seattle City Council support for overturn of the Citizens United decision, knowing that fair elections had been bought off. He was a tireless activist: Head Start, Seattle Consumer Action on consumer disputes, economic cooperatives, Day Care & Child Development Council of America, the Consumer Federation of America, the Puget Consumers Co-op, the Central Area Motivation Program, for four years during the 1970′s, the New Jersey Governor’s Advisory Committee on Social Services, and the Universal Health Care Action Network volunteer president/director for four years (350 participants) (and much more. He fought on thee side that was against 12,555 Super PAC lobbyists on capitol hill
    He’d advocate a bet on every horse because one would win. He was a realist, he said fair elections, and corporate rule, would not be accomplished by Saturday .
    He warned us that a bully on the schoolyard only has to beat up one kid…the rest learn from that example…and told us money is working its will, with, in politics, a huge return on investment; and he put it all in historical context, he said Dwight Eisenhower knew all of this. A great man.

  10. Lynn Martin
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Fuquay, NC

    I met Craig in Somerset, NJ. I shared a house in Somerville with Craig and other
    VISTA volunteers. He was always about helping others and helping others to understand and work for what is right. I noticed he never stopped working his beliefs.
    Although I haven’t seen him in 30yrs. I know he will be missed.

  11. Tom and Suzy McQuary
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Seattle, WA

    Craig remodeled almost every room of our house over the last several years. We hired him for his carpentry expertise, but learned to know and love him for his mastery & creativity in a much broader realm. While he was working in our home, he was family. My daughter still remembers the day Craig asked her if she’d like a phone jack in her bedroom. Big deal to a 15 year old in ’95. His compassion for others was apparent in our more casual conversations & his political action. We feel lucky to have found Craig “the carpenter,” but even more, we are honored to have known him as the wise, gentle, activist man that he was. We speak of him often & always with deep fondness and respect.

  12. Becky Follmer Peters
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Hamilton, MT

    I miss my friend. I miss his phone calls and his emails. I miss that glint in his eye and that grin when he looks at you mischievously. For those of you who worked with Craig and volunteered with him on projects – I envy you! You were given a gift. I first met Craig at our high school on Mercer Island. I was stunned by his confidence and his brilliance and his energy. My husband and I were able to keep sporadic contact with him through the years, thanks mainly to high school reunions, and WPC. We tried everything we could to get him to come to Hamilton – to relax, Heaven forbid! We even tried to entice him to come over by asking him to build our garage! He just never could get the time. It’s like he was making the most of every day he had in this realm. Bless you Craig, you made this world a much better, richer place and your inspiration will continue in all the friends you touched!! Our best to the Salins family. – Bill and Becky Peters

  13. Monica Hoover
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Olympia, WA

    I miss my friend, Craig. We met when he came to Olympia in November 2006 for a presentation on public campaign financing and I became involved in that issue for the next 6 years. Thank you, Craig for all the political and people lessons and laughs. I echo what Betty O. says. Thank you for being part of my life and I wish you hadn’t left so soon.

  14. Lois Salins Wille
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Salt Lake UT

    I know it is late to add my comments, but finding out late that Craig has passed is really sad. I am always trying to retain cousins and share genealogy. Now 2 in that family gone and I am sad I didn’t get to know him better, especially thru all the wonderful comments left for the rest of the family there in Seattle.

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