Making Democracy Work
Money in Politics

Reduce influence of special interest money in politics, provide public financing for campaigns for some offices, ensure transparency, restore citizen confidence, and prevent conflicts of interest.

Issue Team Chair: Kathy Sakahara, 261-7797
 DOWNLOAD the Money in Politics Issue Paper

Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 

What to Expect in 2021

(Interested in the 2020 Session Recap? Click Here)

New Issues This Year

Public financing of campaigns
Because of the high expense of campaigns, running for office is often not possible for someone who does not have significant personal wealth or access to those who do. The burden of raising funds is time consuming for candidates and incumbents making it difficult to not accept special interest group donations. Several other states, and the city of Seattle provide public funds to candidates who have demonstrated sufficient public support.  A bill  to provide public funding for supreme court campaigns was introduced in a past session and we are working to have it introduced again.

Review of disclosure requirements to align with date ballots are mailed
With vote by mail, we now have an election period, instead of an Election Day.  To ensure voters are aware of campaign donations and expenditures when they are ready to vote, and to close reporting loopholes, we need to consider changing due dates for reporting.

Increased digital political advertising transparency
Digital advertising has grown exponentially in dollars spent and in complexity of sources of funds. While this advertising is covered under the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws, access to information is fragmented and hard to find and piece together. The Public Disclosure Commission is working with other states to learn and develop best practices for improved reporting that can be consistently applied and transparent for both the regulated community and makes it easier for the public to understand who is behind the digital ads. Another goal is to empower small campaigns to use this low-cost method of advertising.  Proposals include using a unique identifier to register digital political ads to make it easy to track like the postal code mailers.

Source:  PDC FY20 annual report  

    Issues from Previous Legislative Session

    Revolving door
    Similar to last session’s HB 1067/SB 5033, which would have established a one-year “cooling off” period before elected officials can work as a lobbyist influencing state public policy. Congress and 40 states have cooling off period/revolving door laws.

    Disclosure of advertising disclaimers
    Similar to last session’s HB 2253. Would require disclaimers for election advertising that encourages votes or includes endorsements for people that are not candidates in that election. We have recently seen a new, dishonest tactic used to confuse voters. Ads were run encouraging voters to write in the name of a previous candidate, showing that they had been endorsed by certain organizations. The ad did not indicate that the person had no interest in running a write in campaign and that the endorsements were from at least two years earlier.

    Continued support for the PDC
    The Public Disclosure Commission was created and empowered by Initiative of the People to provide timely and meaningful public access to accurate information about the financing of political campaigns, lobbyist expenditures, and the financial affairs of public officials and candidates, and to ensure compliance with and equitable enforcement of Washington's disclosure and campaign finance laws. Each session the League strives to ensure that the agency has sufficient funding for operations and works with the PDC to develop policy to further their mission.

    For More Information
    Click on video link to view the Dec 2, 2020 Senate Government and Elections committee meeting with the Public Disclosure Commission and the Attorney General’s office for more discussion on online political advertising, the increase in independent expenditures by Super PACs which now outpace expenditures directly spent by campaigns, and the challenges of regulating SuperPACs since the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the v. FEC rulings.

    How You Can Be Involved

    Contact Cindy Madigan to volunteer for research projects on any of these topics, share your knowledge and experience, and learn more about how we can work with the Public Disclosure Commission as citizen volunteers. While we do not expect much activity related to Money in Politics this next legislative session, now is a good time to join our team to increase public awareness and be ready to advocate in the future.

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