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Seattle Council’s new Campaign Finance Reform committee takes up Clean Campaigns Act

From the presentation planned for Tuesday’s committee meeting

The City Council’s newly minted Select Committee on Campaign Finance Reform is set to continue the process to build Seattle’s Clean Campaigns Act, a set of legislation hoped to to fight the wave of outside money shaping the city’s elections.

CHS reported last month on the effort led by citywide representative Lorena González who is now also the council president to move forward on three fronts of campaign finance reform.

  1. a ban on foreign-influenced corporations from making any contribution to independent expenditure committees;
  2. a cap on all political contributions to independent expenditures of $5,000 (with the exception of limited contributor committees); and,
  3. new reporting requirements to increase transparency.

A presentation from Tuesday morning’s first session of the new committee is below.

Her bill would attempt to attack Political Action Committee spending in three ways. First, and most importantly, it would limit contributions to independent expenditure committees, like the downtown chamber’s Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy. The legislation could set a $5,000 cap on contributions to such committees.

Another aspect of the bill would prohibit donations from foreign-owned companies, defined as businesses with a single foreign owner controlling 1% or more of the business, two or more foreign owners controlling 5% of the business, or a foreign owner participating in decision-making surrounding political activities.

The third gap the bill would look to plug is in requiring that commercial advertisers maintain public records on paid local political ads.

Independent expenditure spending skyrocketed to over $4 million across the city during last year’s election, up from under $700,000 in 2015, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.

UPDATE: The legislation was approved out of committee and will move to the full council for a vote later this month:


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3 thoughts on “Seattle Council’s new Campaign Finance Reform committee takes up Clean Campaigns Act

    • The obvious question is does this limit contributions from unions, such as those listed as large contributors in the last election? It does not seem that those contributions would be limited. I have inquired with Councilmember Gonzalez’s office but have not gotten any response. The other question is how would this be affected by the Citizens United decision? If political contributions are protected speech, how can Seattle limit such contributions?

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