After massive spending, fight rages on for bill to curb Seattle PAC money

Nov 11, 2019, 9:24 AM | Updated: 9:26 am

study, prolific offenders, council...

Seattle Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez. (AP)


On the heels of sizable corporate spending in Seattle’s council races, Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez is continuing to fight for legislation to curb that spending in future city elections.

CM Gonzalez on mission to oust foreign money from local politics

Gonzalez will introduce the bill in the council’s Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans, and Education Committee this week, with plans to have it before the full council sometime in 2020.

The measure will look to curb political spending in Seattle elections in three ways:

  • Prohibiting donations from foreign-owned companies, and requiring any corporation donating to a PAC to get a certified statement with the City Clerk’s office affirming that it is not foreign-influenced in any way
  • Limiting contributions from individuals to independent expenditure committees to $5,000 each
  • Clarifying reporting requirements for commercial advertisers running paid political ads

“Really at the end of the day what this bill is going to do is send a clear message to folks who seek to buy our elections that that kind of behavior is not going to be permitted in the city of Seattle and our local elections,” González told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross back in September.

Gonzalez has been passing the bill around various committees for months now. That being so, it’s become even more of a lightning rod on the heels of a hotly-contested Seattle City Council election season, that saw Amazon contribute over $1.4 million to the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE).

The fallout of Amazon’s $1.4 million bid to flip Seattle City Council

CASE functions as the political arm of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, taking in over $3 million in total contributions this election cycle.

A large chunk of contributions to CASE this cycle checked in over the $5,000 threshold set by the measure. That’s a list that included over $1.4 million from Amazon, as well as $235,000 from Vulcan, $145,000 from the Washington Association of Realtors, $50,000 from Expedia, and $30,000 from Starbucks.

On the other side of the aisle, the Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (CAPE) saw a series of large-scale donations of its own, in an ultimately successful effort to elect more progressive candidates. That roster of contributors included $125,000 from Nick Hanauer, just over $110,000 from caregivers union SEIU 775, and $24,000 from local Teamsters.

Doubts remain over whether the contribution limits outlined in Gonzalez’s proposal will hold up to a court challenge. Still, it would represent a massive change to Seattle’s campaign spending in the wake of historically large amounts of money pouring in for 2019’s council races.

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After massive spending, fight rages on for bill to curb Seattle PAC money