If you think big money controls politics in Seattle, you have a chance to change that. The city council voted unanimously Monday in favor of a new ordinance to allow limited public financing of elections.
Candidates would qualify for public money by first collecting contributions of $10 or more from at least 600 residents.
“Right now, what happens in city politics is if you have to raise a quarter of a million dollars on your own, you’re going after folks who write big checks,” Councilmember Mike O’Brien told The Morning News on KIRO Radio. “So, there’s a handful of people in this town that really control what that dialogue looks like and this would open it up so that everyone has a say in what a debate and what a council race looks like.”
Candidates who qualify would receive a six-to-one match on the first $35,000 raised and could receive up to $210,000, split between the primary and general elections.
“Setting up a system where you are required to go out and gather small contributions from more people, hopefully spreads you out over greater parts of the city, hopefully gets you in contact with more people,” said councilmember Sally Clark.
A 6-year, $9 million property tax levy would establish a $2 million fund for the public financing of campaigns. Once a fund was established, the council could set lower rates in subsequent years. The levy would cost the owner of a $400,000 home about $6.60 per year.
If approved by voters, the plan goes into effect with the 2015 election cycle.