Big money interests drown out the voices of voters at every level of government, from congress to city council.
WASHINGTON state was one of the first to extend voting rights to women. Seattle’s suffragists campaigned for decades against big-money interests to ensure all of us have a voice. Yet 100 years later, the fight for a truly democratic government is far from over. Today, big-money interests drown out the voices of voters at every level of government, from Congress to city councils.
The League of Women Voters believes that the methods of financing political campaigns should ensure the public’s right to know, should combat corruption and undue influence, and should enable candidates to compete equitably for office and allow maximum participation in the political process. The league supports measures giving ordinary people a stronger voice in our democracy, and we strongly endorse Initiative 122, Honest Elections Seattle.
I-122 limits big-money interests in city policymaking, gives ordinary people a stronger voice in local government, and ensures that candidates can spend more time listening to ordinary voters. That’s why it’s endorsed by U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, and most candidates for Seattle City Council, from council President Tim Burgess to Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
Related guest opinion: I-122 would create a deeply flawed voucher system
Why does I-122 have such broad support? Because we all recognize it’s time to pass campaign-finance reform in Seattle. Voter turnout, nationally and locally, declines while voter apathy and distrust in government grows. Seattle elections are more expensive, discouraging otherwise good candidates from running against people with the right donor lists. The Sightline Institute found that just 0.3 percent of Seattle, primarily wealthy and corporate interests, control which candidates can run with the resources to win.
I-122 evens the playing field by limiting the influence of big money, giving all voters a stronger voice in local government.
First, it tightens restrictions on moneyed interests. I-122 lowers the maximum contribution limits in city races and bans contributions from corporations that spend significant funds lobbying the city or receive large city contracts.
Second, I-122 increases accountability and transparency in our local government, tightens campaign reporting deadlines, increases electronic-disclosure requirements and requires elected officials to disclose possible conflicts of interest.
Third, it builds on successful campaign-finance programs in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I-122 enables candidates to fund their campaigns with small donations from many voters instead of relying on big checks from the same 0.3 percent. Under I-122’s program, qualified candidates without access to wealthy donors can fund competitive campaigns by collecting signed, registered election vouchers for $25 from their friends and other ordinary voters. Because strict campaign spending limits are written into law, I-122 costs just $3 million a year, easily funded through the city budget or a tiny levy of 65 cents a month for the average homeowner.
We’ve heard the anti-Honest Elections Seattle campaign using the old “unintended consequences” attack against I-122, throwing out a long list of red herrings and hoping one will swim with voters.
Voters should know I-122 has the stamp of approval from many elections and legal professionals, including former Seattle Ethics and Elections Commissioners Lorena González and Lynn Iglitzen, who asked tough questions and combed through the details. So did the elections experts at the League of Women Voters and dozens of candidates who’ve run their own election campaigns. The league urges voters to approve I-122 and stand up for a truly democratic government, one where every voter has a strong voice.