This Wednesday at 6:00 p.m., city officials will host their second panel discussion exploring the topic of publicly financing city campaigns at the main branch of the Seattle Public Library.
I know public campaign financing hardly seems as sexy as the topic du jour, sexy sexy school levies, but consider what I wrote in last week's paper:
Why publicly finance campaigns? Some people point to Seattle's 2011 election to illustrate the problem. During that election cycle, Seattle had fewer candidates running for office than any time since 1995, a drop in small contributions, a record high in the average size of contributions, top donors contributing almost exclusively to incumbents—and all this on top of massive $100,000 incumbent war chests scaring off challengers.
Despite their huge fundraising advantages, council members spent, on average, just $201,000 on their campaigns in 2011. By contrast, both 2008 public-financing models would cap contributions at $250,000, meaning participating candidates should have plenty of funds to launch viable campaigns.
All four city council members up for re-election this year are currently running unchallenged. In addition, last Friday city council member and mayoral candidate Tim Burgess borrowed a page from the public campaign finance playbook with an email blast that asked supporters to contribute just $10 to his campaign. (That tactic is known as the $10 x 1,000 pledge and it's one of two public funding models previously considered by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.)
Campaign finance reform is up for debate during this election cycle—a measure for publicly financed campaigns may even end up on the primary or general election ballot. Get in on the ground level discussion this Wednesday at the main branch of the Seattle Public Library (1000 Fourth Ave), from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.