In November 2013 there will be a “Proposition 1″ on ballots for all City of Seattle voters. If approved, this would allow the city to offer public funding of campaigns for those who chose to participate with this matching funds system.
The current City Council studied various options and models that are in place in other cities and they unanimously approved to forward this Proposition to the citizens (the approval of the citizenry is an action mandated by state law). For more details including events and endorsements, see http://fairelectionsseattle.com/
Here’s how this would work: Candidates who raise 600 individual donations of at least $10 each will qualify for the program. Contributions up to $50 are matched with 6 public dollars for every $1, up to $210,000 in the campaign fund. Participating candidates would be allowed to only spend $140,000 in the primary and $245,000 overall, except when an opponent spends more, then they could continue to collect and spend if they choose to do so. Approval of Prop. 1 authorizes six years of property taxes, with an estimated $2,000,000 to be collected in 2014 based on $0.0164 / $1000 assessed value.
Having public campaign financing gives us all a more participatory democracy, encouraging more people to run, more people (of lesser means than the average donor today) to donate, and it benefits the candidates who have a good number of willing donors but not necessarily friends with deep pockets or lots of money themselves. This allows grassroots campaigns to have a chance to compete in the local races where campaign spending has steadily increased so that in the last few years it takes a quarter of a million dollars to win. Also, the candidates can focus on more than just fundraising for so much of the time and instead they can formulate issue stances, be out on picket lines, or knocking on doors.
If minor party candidates and independents are to have a chance of a successful outcome and represent more varied interests than the current council this is likely to do the most to allow candidates to focus on issues and platform, form relationships with constituents and not be beholden to lobbyists, PACs and business interests.
Seattle had partial public financing of election campaigns in 1979 and 1981, and from 1987-1991. However, in 1992, state Initiative 134 passed, prohibiting public financing. Then, in 2008 the State legislature passed a law allowing local jurisdictions to establish programs to publicly finance their campaigns, if approved by a public vote, and if funding is derived from local sources only.
The Seattle City Council responded by passing Resolution 31061, which set up a Campaign Public Financing Advisory Committee that recommended a system for publicly financing Seattle election campaigns. That committee recommended that the City Council place a measure on the November 2009 ballot for a public financing program, but with the 2008-09 downturn in the economy it was postponed until renewed interest in 2011 brought this back to the table.
Please share this with friends, talk it up – and vote Yes on Proposition 1 this fall!