FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 4/3/2014
Critical of Supreme Court Ruling, Councilmember O’Brien, Community Groups Want Public Campaign Financing in Seattle
Seattle – Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Washington Community Action Network, the Washington Bus, Win/Win and Fair Elections Seattle expressed disappointment and frustration over Wednesday’s Supreme Court 5-4 ruling allowing big campaign donors and corporations to make unlimited contributions to candidates, political parts and political action committees, as long as individual campaign caps are followed.
“Wednesday’s decision is another disastrous step on the Supreme Court’s path to overturn decades old campaign finance laws intended to protect our democracy from corruption. Democracy should not be a pay-to-play system, but that is the direction the Supreme Court seems intent on taking our national politics,” said O’Brien. “Thankfully, Seattle is making moves to protect our local democracy from being overrun by campaign cash. We have strong campaign finance laws in place, including recent reforms to prevent local elected officials from establishing campaign war chests.”
O’Brien continued: “Last fall, Seattle voters approved a charter amendment to create a district-based Council system. And many people and organizations, including myself, continue to call for publicly financed campaigns in Seattle. District elections, paired with a public campaign financing option, could open the door to more grassroots candidates and ensure the healthy, robust local democracy that the people of Seattle want and deserve.”
“Wednesday’s decision is a disturbing wakeup call about the future of our democracy. We cannot afford to live in a society where elections can be bought by the highest bidder. We must take action at the local level to ensure the people’s voice is not drowned out by the contributions of the wealthy few,” said Mauricio Ayon, Political Director, Washington Community Action Network.
“This decision simply serves as another reminder of how important it is to work for change at the local level – where we, as concerned individuals hold the most power,” said Estevan Munoz-Howard, Chair of Fair Elections Seattle. “At Fair Elections Seattle, we firmly believe that the first step toward reform must be to provide candidates with the opportunity to run viable campaigns that are fueled not by donors but by voters. We are optimistic about bringing voter-owned elections back to Seattle in the coming year, and setting the groundwork for statewide and, ultimately, nationwide reform in the near future.”
“The Washington Bus believes that democracy works best when the most people possible are participating. We have worked since 2008 to advance voting rights, electoral reform, and increased participation in the political and civic process. When the voices of our generation are outweighed by money, we do our city, state and country a disservice,” said Alex Miller, Program Manager, Washington Bus.
“Win/Win Network works with our partner organizations across Washington to increase participation in our political process. Particularly for those in underrepresented communities, communities of color, youth, and women, it is increasingly important to reclaim our democracy,” said Dana Laurent, Executive Director, Win/Win Network. “That’s why we are so glad to see Seattle taking seriously the need for public financing of campaigns, which has been shown to increase representation of and participation for all our communities.”
Editor’s note: Since the passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, and amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, political donors were limited by both a cap on contributions to individual campaigns and an overall cap on the amount that could be given in any two-year election cycle to all campaigns, parties and political action committees. With today’s decision, just the individual cap remains, opening the door to millions more being spent by big donors to determine who gets elected to Congress.