Politics / News
Want to Get Money Out of Politics? Pay Close Attention to Today's City Council Meeting
by Ansel Herz
on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 12:14 PM
City of Seattle
PUSHING FOR PUBLIC FINANCING: Council Members Kshama Sawant, Sally Bagshaw, Nick Licata, and Mike O'Brien.
Today at 2 p.m., Seattle City Council Member Mike O'Brien will attempt the equivalent of a parliamentary end-run around Council President Tim Burgess in order to introduce a public financing law for municipal campaigns. He needs a council majority of five just to get his legislation on the council's calendar—and while it's highly unusual for a council member to have to go begging to colleagues just to get something on the calendar (which the council president controls), O'Brien just might be able to get the votes he needs.
Standing in his way, like a protective eagle mother, has been Burgess, who is blocking O'Brien's path to the calendar because he wants nothing at all to distract voters from his baby political project, universal pre-K, which will be on this fall's ballot. Burgess worries that having a bunch of progressive measures on the fall ballot—from pre-K to transit funding, and now maybe public financing, too—will make it less likely that pre-K will pass. In response, O'Brien and others offer data suggesting the opposite is true: the more progressive measures there are on a ballot, the more it drives progressive voters to the polls, which makes it more likely all the progressive measures will pass.
Every year, the same few dozen rich donors write big checks to their favorite city council candidates, and since candidates can trade that money in for voter eyeballs by blanketing the city in shiny mailers and hiring expensive consultants, the people who rack up the big checks tend to be the people who get elected.
Just about everyone—even the politicians soliciting fat campaign checks from wealthy donors—publicly bemoans the presence of money in politics. We'll see today who can back up words with action: Mike O'Brien's spokesperson, Josh Fogt, tells me that Council members Nick Licata, Kshama Sawant, and Sally Bagshaw are on board. Supporters of the public financing law are furiously lobbying the remainder of the council right now—Tom Rasmussen, Bruce Harrell, Jean Godden, and Sally Clark—to get that vital majority-making fifth vote.
Look for an update on ye ol' Slog this afternoon! You can do it, Mike!