This afternoon, the Seattle City Council approved new election rules to prohibit candidates from rolling over leftover cash from one campaign to the next and limit political campaigning to the 22 months prior to every election. The vote passed with seven council members in favor, and council president Sally Clark and Tom Rasmussen opposed.
"This is a good, positive step forward in hoping to rebuild confidence and public trust in our elections process," said one of the bill's cosponsors, Tim Burgess.
"It helps with the public perception of corruption," added the bill's prime champion, Mike O'Brien, before posing with Burgess for this charming victory photo.
But not all council members believed the legislation would be useful or its sponsors' talking points were honest. "We should speak plainly... this is flawed legislation," argued Rasmussen. "The sponsors are seeking to bootstrap themselves legally with talk of perceptions of corruption."
Clark worried that the new rules would benefit self funders and people with rich contacts at the expense of female candidates and minorities. Then Clark proposed a new (old) idea for the council to consider: "It is time to restart the conversation about public financing," she said. "If we, as a city, want to get to real reform, public financing is key."
Between 1979 and 1991, Seattle's public partially funded candidates' campaigns for office. A state-level initiative ended public financing in 1992. Sixteen years later, the State legislature passed a 2008 law allowing publicly financed campaigns at the local level if approved by a public vote.
"I'd like to see [public campaign financing] on the ballot by November of next year," agreed council member Nick Licata. "It does allow a broader range of candidates."