May 9 – Vouching for Democracy

This month’s presenter will be Alice Woldt, Executive Director of Fix Democracy First! (formerly Washington Public Campaigns).  She will be speaking for Honest Elections Seattle, the organization that also includes Fuse, Sightline, Progressive Alliance, and Win/Win.  Together they are sponsoring Seattle Initiative 122 which seeks to restrain the corrosive – if not corruptive – influence of private contributions for elective office.  I-122 seeks to reform political giving, lobbying, and campaign spending.  The vehicle would be a property tax levy that raises about $3,000,000 to fund a system of public financing.

Rather than have the city giving to candidates directly, the proposal is to give each citizen four $25 vouchers which they could distribute to bona fide candidates as they saw fit. The affected offices are Mayor, Councilmember, and City Attorney. Each candidate would also be limited in the total amounts they could collect under this system: Mayor $800,000, At-large Councilmember $300,000, District Councilmember $150,000 & City Attorney $150,000
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Public campaign financing has been employed in the cities of New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Is it time for Seattle to join the big leagues?  Studies report that participation by traditionally disadvantaged groups increases when public financing is put into place.  How would this shape policy debates going forward?  Is public financing the missing piece in putting residents on an equal footing with large developers?  Find out the answers to these and other questions this Saturday at the monthly breakfast meeting of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition.

[by Bob Rosenberger, May4, 2015]

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