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City of Seattle

Proposition No. 1

The City of Seattle’s Proposition No. 1 concerns creation of a system of publically financed council election campaigns.


If approved, this proposition would publically fund campaigns for Seattle City Council. Candidates who raise 600 individual contributions of at least $10 qualify for the program. Contributions up to $50 to qualifying candidates are matched 6 public dollars for every dollar, up to $210,000. Participating candidates may only spend $140,000 in the primary and $245,000 overall, except when an opponent spends more. Approval authorizes six years of additional property taxes, with $2,000,000 (approximately $0.0164/$1000 assessed value) collected in 2014.


Should this proposition be approved?



The Existing Law:

Currently, no public monies are used to support political campaigns for Seattle elected offices.  The maximum individual contribution to a candidate’s campaign for a Seattle office is $700.  There are no spending limitations.  A person can make unlimited contributions to independent political committees that are unconnected to and not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign.

State law provides that:  “A county, city, town, or district that establishes a program to publicly finance local political campaigns may only use funds derived from local sources to fund the program. A local government must submit any proposal for public financing of local political campaigns to voters for their adoption and approval or rejection.” RCW 42.17A.550

The Effect of the measure if approved:

If approved by the voters, Proposition 1 would create a program to publicly fund qualifying candidates’ political campaigns for city-wide City Council positions.  Should Seattle City Charter Amendment 19 be approved, this program will not apply to councilmember positions elected by districts that are not city-wide.  A proposal to extend the program to cover district council races could be enacted if it complied with RCW 42.17A.550.


To participate in the program and be eligible for public funds, a candidate needs to meet the following criteria:

  1. File with the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission (SEEC) a statement of intent to participate in the program sometime between January 1 of the election year and 14 days after the filing of a declaration of candidacy with King County Elections.  (A declaration of candidacy must be filed between the Monday two weeks before Memorial Day and the following Friday in the election year for the office.)
  2. Agree to abide by the terms of the program by filing a Participation Agreement with the SEEC before 14 days have elapsed after filing a declaration of candidacy.
  3. Collect at least 600 qualifying contributions of at least $10 each, in a period between the filing of a statement of intent and 21 days after filing a declaration of candidacy.   This period can start as early as January 1 of the election year and end as late as sometime in June of the election year.   Qualifying (“Matchable”) contributions must be from human Seattle residents; that is, not from corporations or other types of legal persons resident in Seattle.  Candidates may accept non-Matchable contributions from anyone.
  4. Agree to participate in three debates/forums, and
  5. Be opposed by at least one person who has filed a Declaration of Candidacy for the same Seattle City Council position with King County Elections who is still in the election on the Tuesday following the period for filing the declaration of candidacy, and who has campaign expenditures, debts and obligations, and cash on hand that combined total at least $6,000.

Basic Program Structure

Participating candidates will receive public funds to match eligible contributions.  A participating candidate will receive six public dollars for each dollar of eligible contributions.  Eligible contributions are the first $50 received from each qualifying contributor.  Additionally, there is a limit to the total amount of public dollars that may be received by a candidate.  A candidate may receive no more than $105,000 for the primary election and no more than $210,000 for the Primary and general election combined.

The participating candidates must agree to a spending cap of $140,000 for the Primary and an overall spending cap of $245,000.

No more than 180 days after each City Council election, the SEEC must report to the City Council whether the SEEC has determined that any changes would improve the program.  After receiving this report, this program structure may be changed by subsequent ordinance, but only after a report from the SEEC, and then only to the extent of changing dollar values by up to 15%, the number of Matchable contributions required by up to 100, or any of the required dates and times.

Lifting of the Spending Cap

If a non-participating candidate’s total campaign expenditures, debts and obligations combined with cash on hand exceeds the campaigns spending limit agreed to by participating candidates, then the spending limit is removed for all participating candidates in the same race.  Additionally, if independent expenditures benefit a candidate, whether participating or not, and those expenditures (added to the candidate’s total campaign expenditures, debts and obligations and cash on hand) exceed the spending limitation on participating candidates, then the spending limitation is removed for all participating candidates in the same race who did not benefit from the expenditure.  If the candidate who benefits from the independent expenditure is a participating candidate, then the spending limit shall remain in place for that candidate until such time as another participating candidate exceeds the expenditure limitation in the same race.

If a participating candidate's spending limit is removed and that candidate's total campaign expenditures, debts and obligations and cash on hand exceed $140,000 in the primary, then that candidate is required to adhere to a general election spending limit of $105,000.  If a participating candidate's limit is removed and that candidate's total campaign expenditures, debts and obligations and cash on hand do not exceed $140,000 in the primary, then that candidate is required to adhere to the overall election spending limit of $245,000.

Other Program Features

Participating candidates may withdraw from the program, but must return any public money received with interest.  A Participating Candidate must return unexpended Matching Funds to the City for deposit into the Campaign Program Fund no later than 30 days after he or she is elected, defeated, or withdraws.

In the event that the funds available in the Campaign Program Fund are insufficient to provide every participating candidate with the funds he or she would be eligible to receive, the amount of public funds given to each candidate is reduced proportionally until the total amount given to participating candidates equals the amount of funds available.

In addition to other penalties and remedies provided for violation of the City of Seattle’s campaign finance laws, participating candidates who violate the provisions of this program are subject to a penalty up to the amount of the public monies made available to the candidate and/or subject to a fine of up to twice the amount of any expenditure in excess of a spending limitation.

Taxes to Support this Program

In order to fund this program, Proposition 1 also contains a proposed six-year property tax increase.  Proposition 1 would authorize the collection of more property taxes than would otherwise be allowed by the limits imposed under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 84.55. That state law generally limits the annual increase in property tax revenue to 1% over the highest amount that the City could have received in one of the three most recent years. Proposition 1 lifts that lid on property taxes.

The taxes authorized by Proposition 1are in addition to those collected under the limits of RCW 84.55 or any other authorized levy lid lifts. In the first year of collection (2014), the total amount of increased property taxes for the purposes of this proposition is limited to $2 million.  The additional tax rate associated with the tax increase authorized by Proposition 1 for any property owner would be approximately 1.64 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value.  A person with a home worth $350,000 would pay approximately an additional $5.74 in taxes the first year of the tax.

The City’s total regular property-tax rate would not exceed the state-law rate limit of $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value. Taxes levied in 2019 for collection in 2020, and later tax levies, would be calculated as if Proposition 1 had not been passed.

For additional questions regarding this measure contact: Monica Martinez Simmons - City Clerk 206-684-8361 •

Make Your Vote Count: YES on Proposition 1

Nationwide, powerful special interests are spending record amounts to influence elections. Unregulated, secretive contributions, fueled by conservative Supreme Court decisions, are eroding the power of our vote. The result: government and politicians more beholden to them than to us.

Here at home, we can do something about it. Proposition 1 is a responsible, common sense reform that restores Seattle’s tradition of fair election laws—now, when we need it most.

More Competitive, Fair Elections   

Seattle campaigns are currently funded by donations from less than one percent of the population, mostly from big corporations and other wealthy interests. Proposition 1 creates accountability and transparency, giving candidates—and voters—a real choice to build true community support and campaign for the votes of people, not special interest donations.

Proposition 1 protects our democracy by offering limited matching funds to candidates who demonstrate broad, grassroots support. This will help make city council races more competitive and help us elect leaders who truly reflect the values and diversity of our city.

The Seattle Times (6/14/13) agrees: “In other places like Maine, New York City and San Francisco, matching funds have leveled the playing field for challengers against well-monied incumbents…A wider array of candidates run for office and elevate civic debates based on ideas, rather than the special interests of campaign donors...”

Affordable and Accountable

For just 50¢ a month for an average household, Proposition 1 is a small investment to ensure clean, fair elections. The funds are dedicated—safeguarding other critical programs—and are subject to rigorous independent oversight and audit.

Widely Endorsed!

34th, 36th, 37th, 43rd, & 46th Democrats; El Centro de la Raza; Japanese American Citizens League; Fuse; King County Labor Council; SEIU WA; UFCW 21; Sierra Club WA; Washington Bus; Governor Mike Lowry (ret.), Senators Bob Hasegawa, Adam Kline, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Ed Murray, & Sharon Nelson; Speaker Frank Chopp; Representatives Eileen Cody, Jessyn Farrell, Joe Fitzgibbon, Gerry Pollett, Sharon Tomiko Santos, Seth Armstrong (ret.), Phyllis Gutierrez-Kenney (ret.) & Velma Veloria (ret.); County Assessor Lloyd Hara; Mayor Mike McGinn; City Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Sally Clark, Richard Conlin, Jean Godden, Bruce Harrell, Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata, David Della (ret.) & Peter Seinbreuck (ret.); Community leaders including: Kenny Alhadeff, Juan Jose Bocanegra, Pramilla Jayapal, Vu Le, Eric Liu, Hubert G. Locke, Estella Ortega, Karma Ruder, Chio Saeteurn, Marcee Stone-Vekich & Alice Woldt.

YES on Proposition 1

Proposition 1 is a tax measure that raises your Property Taxes, increasing costs to homeowners and renters alike with no benefit to public needs.  Property taxes are intended to fund schools, parks, libraries, and needed human services. Money public officials collect from citizens should be used for purposes that serve the whole community, not to keep career politicians in office. Vote NO on Proposition 1.

Proposition 1 forces you to give money to candidates whether you support them or not. There is little that is fair about this proposition to force you to fund campaigns.  This is a Proposition written by City Council incumbents for City Council incumbents and is supported by city hall insiders.

Currently all Seattle campaign donations are voluntary, so the money given to candidates is not considered excessive by the people contributing their own money. Proposition 1 makes it easier for incumbents to fund their campaigns with your money.  It is much easier for an incumbent to qualify to use your money for a campaign than it is for a challenger. This is an inappropriate use of the city’s taxing authority.

Your money supports anyone who qualifies for this tax subsidy, whether Republican, Democrat or anywhere else on the political spectrum and you will be forced to pay for it. Support those you like, not those you oppose.  This misguided measure does not deserve your support.

This scheme has been done in other cities and the results are clear.  Incumbents remain secure in office but are relieved of having to work as hard to raise funds.  Challengers find it just as difficult to take on incumbents.  The same career politicians remain in office. Do not believe the hype, these schemes have not worked to bring real change, anywhere.

Proposition 1 does not limit how much candidates can spend of their own money, so the wealthy and well-connected running for public office have the advantage they always have enjoyed. It does nothing to limit the amount PACs, political action committees, can spend to support or oppose a candidate.  It does not effectively limit the amount of money that can be spent in an election.  Vote NO on Proposition 1.          

This is a misguided Proposition based on misplaced spending priorities. Retain the right to support the candidates of your choice.  Vote NO on Proposition 1.

Proposition 1 restores fair elections to Seattle, ensuring that our politicians are responsible to us, not big money interests

The program is transparent and accountable.  Candidates must prove they deserve support, collecting 600 contributions between $10 and $50 from Seattle residents.  These grassroots contributions are matched up to $210,000—giving credible challengers the opportunity to compete against well-funded incumbents.  The independent Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission provides oversight, ensuring funds are used according to the law.

Proposition 1 dedicates revenue for fair elections, meaning no money can be taken from other city servicesPlus, it’s inexpensive, just 50 cents a month for the average homeowner.

Proposition 1 strengthens our democracy, makes our voices heard, and sends a broader message: voters deserve better than billions spent by Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers.  That’s why King County Labor Council, King County Democrats and ACLU have joined the coalition endorsing Prop. 1. 

Statement submitted by: Sharon Tomiko Santos, Jim Street and Estela Ortega

Seattle Ethics & Elections Commissioner Bruce Carter describes public campaign financing in Seattle as "a remedy in search of a problem."  The average contribution to 2011 city campaigns was $231.  Now our politicians want to divert tax monies from transit, human services and other vital community to replace that.  Even with subsidies, moneyed interests can enter a campaign with independent expenditures to promote their agendas for or against a subsidized candidate. 

National election funding expert Professor Kenneth Mayer notes that incumbents retain offices at the same rate before and after tax subsidies are put in place.  Professor Mayer's studies show that tax funding does not enhance competitiveness or diversity. This has failed to bring fresh faces into politics in other places it has been tried. Vote NO on Proposition 1.

Statement submitted by: Kirk Robbins and Nicole Franklin

Simple Majority (RCW 84.55.050)


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