In its recent report, Sightline Institute mapped campaign giving in Seattle and found neighborhoods like Madison Park, Madrona, and Leschi to be among the most prominent “big money” zones in the city. The Seattle researchers also found one of the largest, high density areas of political giving fell squarely on Capitol Hill.
“The disparity in political giving between poorer neighborhoods home to more people of color and wealthy, white neighborhoods is stark,” said the report’s author, Sightline executive director Alan Durning.
To level the playing field, the report’s authors are backing Seattle’s Honest Elections Initiative. In addition to reducing the maximum donation amount from $700 to $500, I-122 would institute an opt-in system of public campaign financing funded through a small property tax levy. The program would give voters $100 “democracy vouchers” that they would then give to candidates to fund their campaigns.
Sightline’s report showed the Capitol Hill-centered Council District 3 to be the biggest geographical source of major campaign giving in local elections, followed by parts of downtown and Upper Queen Anne. Half of total donation dollars in 2013 came from just 1,683 contributors, or 0.3 percent of the city’s adults, according to the report. Not surprising, the report also found a strong correlation between political giving and homes with views.
Council District 3 recently became the most moneyed race among the nine City Council races this year. A June spike in donations to City Council member Kshama Sawant and challenger Pamela Banks helped push the total contribution amount in the race to just over $500,000, according to data from the city’s Ethics and Election Commission. Sawant’s campaign has repeatedly pointed out that her average contribution size — currently at $114 — has remained significantly lower than Banks’ $261.
UPDATE: This mapping of contributors who gave more than $500 to campaigns in 2013 gives another view of the Hill’s money influence: