July 4, 2017
I-122, the “Honest Elections” initiative (aka the Democracy Voucher Program) was supposed to get money and corporate influence out of Seattle politics. It looked great on paper.
The PROBLEM: “Wealthy special interests have too much power in Seattle. When these interests spend huge amounts of money on elections, that’s not free speech; that’s buying our candidates.” —Voter’s guide “pro” statement excerpt
The SOLUTION: Give qualifying candidates taxpayer money to campaign and then cap the amount they can raise and spend on the election.
New PROBLEM: Limits on spending amounts don’t apply to PAC ads or other “independent expenditures” done by non-candidate groups. Nor do they apply to any candidate not participating in the voucher program.
New SOLUTION: Raise the contribution and spending limit to allow the Democracy Voucher participants spend as much as they want. As long as they can show that their opponent (or his PAC buddies) are spending more than them.
–Wait… wut? Now we’re back where we were before the Democracy Voucher program, where candidates can raise and spend as much as they want. The only difference is that now some candidates are getting money from taxpayers… including from taxpayers who don’t support them.
Here’s the operative lingo from a memo sent out by Seattle Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Wayne Barnett last week:
If a qualified candidate demonstrates to SEEC that he or she has an opponent (whether or not participating in the Program) whose campaign spending has exceeded the Campaign Spending Limit for the position sought as indicated above, where SEEC deems the excess material it shall allow such candidate to choose to be released from the Campaign Spending Limit and campaign contribution limits for the Program, in which case SEEC shall allow such candidate to redeem his or her Democracy Vouchers received theretofore or thereafter up to the amount of the Campaign Spending Limit only, then allow such candidate to engage in campaign fundraising without regard to any Program requirements.
Don’t kid yourselves Social Justice Warriors. Money is just as much a factor as ever in Seattle politics. And so is influence. Whether it flows from the spigot of a giant oil corporation or from the mouths of a hundred casting-call protesters at City Hall. It’s there, alright. All your lofty ideals haven’t changed a thing. Maybe they’ve even made it worse.
See an article about other issues with the Democracy Voucher program here. The City of Seattle was recently sued over the program by a man who claims it’s un-Constitutional. You can read more about that here.