Campaign and Election Reform at City Council

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Earlier this week I was involved in Council two actions to reform campaigns and elections in Seattle.

First of all, on October 15, I voted to pass an ordinance to limit the fundraising time period for candidates, and to prohibit rollover of funds between campaigns. Councilmember O’Brien drafted and introduced the legislation, which I co-sponsored. The legislation passed 7-2 (with Clark and Rasmussen voting no); the post-vote statement has more details.

Secondly, Councilmember Clark and I issued a statement  in support of exploring public financing of election campaigns in Seattle, and noting that a proposal to place a measure before the voters could be done as early as 2013.

The statement is copied below:

Seattle – Seattle City Council President Sally J. Clark and Councilmember Nick Licata issued the following statement in support of public financing of campaigns in Seattle:

“As we tackle the issue of making our local government more responsive to our citizens and making the opportunity to serve in elective office truly accessible, a number of strategies have been proposed and considered. The burden of fundraising should not be the deciding factor for people considering elective office in Seattle. The surest and most direct way to address this hurdle is through public financing of campaigns.

“Seattle had partial public financing of campaigns in effect from 1979-91. A state-level initiative prohibited such public financing in 1992. Sixteen years later the State legislature revisited this issue and passed a 2008 law allowing publicly financed campaigns at the local level if approved by a public vote.

“We were two of the co-sponsors of Council Resolution 31337 which said, ‘The Council will analyze how city election campaigns are currently financed and explore alternatives.’ We believe that with the economy improving and the cost of campaign escalating, it is time for the Council to consider putting such a proposal before the voters. A public financing task force met in 2009 and 2010 to vet this idea. Much work has already been done and a proposal could be put before voters as early as 2013.”

The Council created the Campaign Public Financing Advisory Committee in the Resolution 31061; here’s a link to the committee’s Report.

Legislation passed by Council

The ordinance passed by the Council limits fundraising for Seattle elected office to a period from January 1 of the year before an election to April 30 the year following the election. Seattle elected offices have terms of four years, so in practice for the first two years of a term, candidates will be prohibited from fundraising; there is currently no time limit. The second portion of the ordinance prohibits rollover of funds from one campaign to another campaign.