Public Financing "Debate" on Senate Floor

Cross posted here.
Yesterday (3/6/07), the Washington State Senate began debate on Substitute Senate Bill 5278, enabling local governmentscities to consider Public Financing of Political Campaigns. As you can see, the original bill started out as an effort to allow local governments to consider public financing. However, before the bill could get out of the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee, the committee chair, Senator Darlene Fairley (D 32ndLD) determined that "local" was too broad in scope to assure passage in the full Senate. Therefore, she felt compelled to offer an amendment to change "local" to "cities." It was this substitute that was brought to the floor of the senate for debate. Just to be crystal clear, this is the language that was brought to the Senate floor for debate:

1 AN ACT Relating to use of public funds for political purposes; and
2 amending RCW 42.17.128.
4 Sec. 1. RCW 42.17.128 and 1993 c 2 s 24 are each amended to read
5 as follows:
6 Public funds, whether derived through taxes, fees, penalties, or
7 any other sources, shall not be used to finance political campaigns for
8 state or local office, except that the legislative authority of a city
9 may establish a program allowing the use of public funds to finance
10 campaigns for local office.
--- END ---
p. 1 SSB 5278

Senator Rosa Franklin (D 29thLD), the Prime Sponsor, introduced the bill, reminded members that this was the virtually the same bill they had seen last year (except that it had been reduced to cities only). She also reminded the members that the city of Seattle had actually participated in a public financing process before the enactment of Initiative 134 in 1993 and that the legislature had been trying since then to reinstate the process.

Senator Joseph Zarelli (R 18thLD) then rose in opposition. Sen. Zarelli started out by reminding the senators that they were talking about tax dollars. He then told the story of a Portland, Oregon city councilwoman who had been elected under that city's public financing plan and then, a year later, was convicted of fraud after it was determined that she had abused the system. Now I'm not sure that Zarelli was inferring that anyone who runs under public financing might be a crook but he certainly didn't indicate that there might be elected officials who were not elected with public money who might have been convicted of anything.

Senator Harriet Spanel (D 40thLD) then spoke in favor and, once again, reminded the senators that Seattle used to do this.

And then "My Senator" - Senator Jean Berkey (D 38thLD) rose to speak in opposition to the bill. Senator Berkey said that, while the underlying goal of public financing of campaigns was "laudable" the "timing is not." She said that our state's economic vitality is precarious and she worried that cities might have to cut services or raise taxes to provide for public financing. She said that she could not support public financing while there were better things to spend the tax payers' money on. However Senator Berkey (perhaps harkening back to her days on the Government Operations and Elections Committee) ended by saying that she would support a public vote to see if the citizens of Washington would like to have their tax dollars spent on political campaigns.

After Senator Berkey spoke, Senators Ed Murray (D 43rdLD) and Eric Oemig (D 45thLD) rose to speak in favor with Oemig offering that, as businesses see the advantage in "investing in candidates", shouldn't citizens be afforded the same opportunity to invest in candidates who would represent them.

And then we fell the rest of the way down the rabbit hole. Enter Senator Pam Roach (R 31stLD) - Cue Darth Vader theme -

Senator Roach began by suggesting she was speaking by popular demand of Senator Bob McCaslin (R 4thLD) who insisted that she MUST speak to this bill. Roach, after demanding that passing SSB 5278 would be, "One of the worst things that we could be doing." spoke thus:
"Do you understand what we are talking about doing here? We are talking about a bill that will allow public funding of our elections." She continued that public financing would be, "completely contrary to the system we have had in this country..."

At this point I must remind you that SSB 5278 would only allow cities to consider and possibly adopt public financing for political campaigns.

At this point, Senator Roach began to channel Karl Rove. She charged that allowing public campaign financing would "end the need for candidates to speak directly to their constituents." In fact, Roach asserted that publicly financed candidates, "will essentially grab the check and be elected and never have to face the electorate." She said that, with public financing, there will be, "no more Ice Cream Socials or Spaghetti Dinners."

Senator Roach then went on to worry about the lack of fraud protections in the bill. She said that public financing will advance "non-viable candidates." She referred back to Senator Zarelli's story of fraud and abuse in Oregon and then suggested that public financing might be, "A good way to fund your college education." Senator Roach ended her floor time with (perhaps) a nod to Senator Berkey; " Taxpayers should not be "forced" to pay for political campaigns."

Apparently sensing imminent defeat of what should have been a simple vote to allow cities to assume local control over how they would administer and finance elections within their municipal jurisdictions, Senate Floor Leader Tracey Eide (D 30thLD) abruptly moved to defer the bill for further consideration.

I freely admit that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed but I am absolutely lost here. How do we get from "allowing consideration of public financing" to "non-viable candidates" waiting in the wings to de-fraud the tax payers? How do educated people who have been elected to the position of State Senator somehow believe that by simply allowing the citizens of the City of Everett to discuss public financing with their elected representatives, we will immediately jump to a situation where we have drained the city treasury? In an email from Craig Salins at Washington Public Campaigns we are reminded that there is no such thing as a "sure thing." Salins offers:

" Even though in the Senate it is 32-17 (Ds-Rs), if 8 or more Ds vote No, we lack a majority to pass the bill, or if some are absent, we lack votes.

Three Ds have declared opposition (Berkey, Hargrove(24th) and Hatfield(19th )); several more are shaky or unknown (Hobbs(44th), Kauffman(47th), Marr(6th), Rasmussen(2nd)).
With Prentice(11th) and Tom(48th), we're unsure.  And with one or two absences, we lack a majority."

In checking on the current status of this bill, it appears that a couple more amendments are being circulated in hopes of reaching final passage. Senator Franklin has introduced the "Berkey Amendment" that would put any effort to enact public financing at a city level to a referendum of the people. Then we have Senator Mark Schoesler (R 9thLD) who is offering what we shall refer to as "the Surgeon General's Warning on Public Financing of Political Campaigns at the City Level." Senator Schoesler's amendment calls for all publicly financed candidates to provide the following disclaimer on all political advertising: "Paid for at taxpayer expense."

Folks, as you can see, the information that is being spread on this bill is mis-leading, false, or just mis-informed. If you have not called your senator, please call them now! If you know someone on the districts mentioned here, please call them and have them call their senator! If this bill fails, it cannot be because we did not act!

Chad (The Left) Shue

< John McKay on Rep. Doc Hasting's pressure | The Building Industry Association of WA has too much power >
Display: Sort:
Great analysis of the debate, Chad.  Thanks!

by noemie maxwell on Thu Mar 08, 2007 at 01:30:08 PM PST

* 1 none 0 *

Does anyone even realize that this wouldn't institute public financing, just give a city the authority to do it if it wanted to?

I blog here.

by emmettoconnell on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 06:42:59 AM PST

* 3 none 0 *

Display: Sort:






Make a new account


Recommended Diaries

Washblog RSS Feeds

Political Contacts

Local Media

Coastal/Grays Harbor
Aberdeen Daily World
Chinook Observer
Montesano Vidette
Pacific County Press
Willapa Harbor Herald
KXRO 1320 AM

Olympic Peninsula
Peninsula Daily News
Bremerton Sun
Bremerton Chronicle
Gig Harbor Gateway
Port Orchard Independent
Port Townsend Leader
North Kitsap Herald
Squim Gazette
Central Kitsap Reporter
Business Examiner
KONP 1450 AM

Sound and Islands
Anacortes American
Bainbridge Review
Voice Of Bainbridge
San Juan Journal
The Islands' Sounder
Whidbey NewsTimes
South Whidbey Record
Stanwood/Camano News
Vashon Beachcomber
Voice Of Vashon
KLKI 1340 AM

North Puget Sound
Bellingham Herald
The Northern Light
Everett Herald
Skagit Valley Herald
Lynden Tribune
The Enterprise
Snohomish County Tribune
Snohomish County Business Journal
The Monroe Monitor
The Edmonds Beacon
KELA 1470 AM
KRKO 1380 AM

Central Puget Sound
King County Journal
Issaquah Press
Mukilteo Beacon
Voice of the Valley
Federal Way Mirror
Bothell/Kenmore Reporter
Kirkland courier
Mercer Island Reporter
Woodinville Weekly

Greater Seattle
Seattle PI
Seattle Times
UW Daily
The Stranger
Seattle Weekly
Capitol Hill Times
Madison Park Times
Seattle Journal of Commerce
NW Asian Weekly
West Seattle Herald
North Seattle Herald-Outlook
South Seattle Star
Magnolia News
Beacon Hill News
KOMO AM 1000
KEXP 90.3 FM
KUOW 94.9 FM
KVI 570 AM

South Puget Sound
The Columbian
Longview Daily News
Nisqually Valley News
Lewis County News
The Reflector
Eatonville Dispatch
Tacoma News Tribune
Tacoma Weekly
Puyallup Herald
Enumclaw Courier-Herald
The Olympian
KAOS 89.3 FM
KOWA FM 106.5
UPN 11

Ellensburg Daily Record
Levenworth Echo
Cle Elum Tribune
Snoqualmie Valley Record
Methow Valley News
Lake Chelan Mirror
Omak chronicle
The Newport Miner

The Spokesman-Review
KREM 2 TV Spokane
KXLY News 4 Spokane
KHQ 6 Spokane
KSPS Spokane
Othello Outlook
Cheney Free Press
Camas PostRecord
The South County sun
White Salmon Enterprise
Palouse Boomerang
Columbia Basin Herald
Grand Coulee Star
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Yakima Herald-Republic
KIMA 29 Yakima
KAPP TV 35 Yakima
KYVE Yakima
Wenatchee World
Tri-City Herald
TVEW TV 42 Tri-cities
KTNW Richland
KEPR 19 Pasco
Daily Sun News
Prosser Record-Bulletin
KTCR 1340 AM
KWSU Pullman
Moscow-Pullman Daily News