Proposed Spokane Ordinance Would Increase Transparency In Campaigns

Dec 14, 2017

Officials in the city of Spokane are hoping to take on campaign finance reform with a proposal meant to limit the influence of money in local politics.

The proposed ordinance, which is scheduled for a vote in the City Council on Monday, is similar to legislation that will likely come up at the state level next year. State Sen. Andy Billig, a Democrat from Spokane, will file a bill that would require non-profits involved in politics to disclose their top donors.

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said he doesn’t care to wait for the Legislature to act. 

“Over my last six years in office, there’s probably been at least a dozen times where the city has tried to do something, and the biggest argument that people have against it is ‘the state should do that,’” Stuckart said. “And I don’t rely on them to do my job for me.”

For almost a year, Stuckart has been looking at how campaigns in city races are financed.

“I break it down four ways, which is: there’s a perception of undue influence in politics, there’s dark money, gray money and there’s also small donors get ignored,” he said.

Stuckart and his assistant took a look at campaign donations over the last 20 years in Washington’s second largest city. The most common is $50, but the average has increased with the largest donations coming from beyond the city limits.

Stuckart’s new ordinance cuts the maximum allowable donation to $500—half of what the state allows. It also requires non-profits involved in politics and political committees to identify their largest donors.

Stuckart said if the new law is violated, campaigns and candidates have five days to remedy the problem. Otherwise, it would be a civil infraction that comes with a $216 fine that compounds daily.

The new law also creates a transparency fund to help offset the cost of enforcement.