Corporate special interests and a wealthy donor class speak volumes in Seattle elections, Honest Elections Seattle looks to raise the voice of the people.
Passed by the city council on July 13 and on the November ballot, I-122 would be the first system in the U.S. that gives public money to citizens for their use in supporting the campaign of their choice.
However, because of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, they cannot make donations illegal or limit them in any way, and therefore it would be an opt-in system.
Candidates will have to agree to the donor limitations if they want to be eligible to receive vouchers from the public. In a progressive city like Seattle, this might work, but it certainly wouldn’t work in every city.
Citizens United and it’s subsequent rulings are still in control of our democracy, and this piece talks to members of wolf-pac.com Washington and their fight to amend the constitution in order to regain the voice of the many.
Seattle doesn’t have the Koch brothers or Super-PAC’s influencing their campaign like what’s being experienced on a national campaign level.
I-122, if passed, would give Seattle voters four $25 vouchers for them to split between the candidates in any combination they choose. In order to pay for the voucher system, the bill includes a 10-year property tax levy with $30 million collected in 2016.
Measures towards limiting the amount corporations and big donors would come in the form of limits to the contributions from entities receiving city contract totaling $250,000 or more as well as persons spending $5,000 or more for lobbying.
I-122 would also reduce the max amount of donations an individual can make to any one candidate to some of the lowest on the country: $800,000 for the mayor, $300,000 for citywide and district council members and $150,000 for city attorneys.
Additional measures include 24-hour reporting of electronic contributions, a required paid signature gatherer identification and limits to lobbying by former city officials.
Unfortunately, because of Citizens United, there are limits to the power of I-122. However, campaigns will only be eligible to receive the vouchers from citizens if they agree to the I-122 regulations.
Furthermore, if I-122 passes, donors still will be able to donate unlimited money beyond the vouchers which would simply allow those usually unable to participate in the process a stronger voice in their government than what is currently possible.
In a progressive city like Seattle, the possible negative repercussions to one’s campaign might be enough of an incentive to lure candidates into opting into the restrictions.
Bans on contributions from corporations who shovel money into lobbying the city and corporations with juicy city contracts while at the same time setting tighter campaign reporting deadlines and increased transparency.
The dismantling of the citizens united ruling would significantly strengthen a proposition like I-122. This would make it easier for cities and states all across the country to implement similar campaign finance laws, with those laws baring its teeth in a way that citizens united currently makes undoable.