October 24, 2012
Vol: 19 No: 43

News

City council bans ‘rolling over’ campaign funds

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

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When it comes to running for Seattle City Council, campaign war chests are now a thing of the past.

Councilmembers passed legislation Oct. 15 that requires candidates for city council, city attorney or mayor to return leftover campaign funding to the donors or donate the money to charity after election. Additionally, newly elected officials would have to serve for two years before they could begin collecting donations or pledges for their re-election.

Proponents of the bill have said the new law helps erase the perception of corruption by elected officials and levels the playing field for new people to become involved in politics. Opponents worried that the law would not hold up legally given that campaign funding is considered free speech and argued that Seattle elections are already fair.

But just two councilmembers voted against the legislation — Tom Rasmussen and Sally Clark. They also have the two largest surpluses from their previous elections. Rasmussen has $104,526 and Clark has $84,706.

Clark said the law solves a nonexistent problem, citing the election of Mayor Mike McGinn as an example of a candidate unseating an incumbent with a larger campaign account.

“We’re not doing (these changes) out of crisis, we’re not doing them out of an absolute firestorm of problems,” Clark said.

But activists hoping to remove moneyed interests from politics were pleased with the bill. John King, president of Washington Public Campaigns, called it “outstanding, visionary legislation.”

King’s group, previously led by Craig Salins who died in August, is promoting publicly financed elections. Clark and Licata said Oct. 15 that they would like to revisit that idea for elected city officials.

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