Exploring Public Financing of Elections in Seattle

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In October Council President Clark and I released a statement in support of exploring public financing of election campaigns in Seattle.

In December, we were joined by Councilmembers O’Brien and Rasmussen in sending a letter to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission asking them to recommend a public financing model that meets the goals of increasing electoral competitiveness, reducing financial barriers to entry for candidates, and increasing the role and emphasis of small donors in the electoral process. Recommendations were requested by March 1, for consideration of a potential ballot measure in 2013.

We requested that the Commission recommend a public financing model for Council consideration. In pursuit of this we requested that they review the 2008 report of the Campaign Finance Advisory Committee convened by the Council; examine new case law and changes to existing programs in other jurisdictions since 2008; explore new research on the effectiveness of public financing in meeting the goals; review local election data since 2008, and also consider potential budget implications.

Seattle had a system of partial public financing from 1979-1991. State law prohibited public financing from 1992 to 2008, but since 2008 has allowed it, with a public vote. The Council opted to shelve consideration of a proposal in 2008, with the economic downturn and looming City budget cuts. In addition to the main report linked above from 2008, there was also a minority report.

Information about public events regarding public financing should be forthcoming soon.

Cities including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have public financing of municipal elections

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