The city's largest business chamber, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, has the dubious honor of becoming the first and only organization to oppose a November ballot measure that would levy a small property tax to publicly fund local city council and mayoral campaigns.
Proposition 1, otherwise known as the Fair Elections Seattle campaign, would create a system in which participating candidates would raise at least $10 (and no more than $50) from 600 Seattle residents. Those funds would then be matched 6-to-1 with public funds up to $210,000, giving each candidate no more than $245,00 to spend on their bid for office.
Here's how the chamber sums up its opposition:
1. The structure of the proposed program would not necessarily address the concerns that informed the development of this measure, particularly the rising amount of fundraising candidates need to do for electoral viability. Candidates will not be bound by a funding cap if their opponent, or an independent expenditure campaign benefitting [sic] their opponent, exceeds the funding cap—even if that opponent does not participate in the program.
2. The program puts the entire financial burden on property owners, despite the program’s ostensible benefit to the entire city.
They're reasoning is shitty of course, and here's why:
1. In 2011, winning candidates for Seattle City Council raised, on average, $275,000 for their races. It's true, $245,000 is less than that, but not significantly so. And if we have a majority of candidates participating in a public campaign financing model, the "rising cost" of elections is moot—they're all playing on the same field.
2. Regarding the "financial burden" statement: This is actually the smallest levy proposed in the history of Seattle. It would pencil out to roughly $6 annually for a $400,000 home. Skip a latte one week and boom, there you go. And on that note, it's not a "burden" if the benefits greatly outweigh it's latte-like costs.
But going back to the chamber's first point—the "concerns" that this measure is hoping to address: that our city council is stagnant, aging, and funded by less than one percent of Seattle's residents and wealthy business interests. Public campaign financing lowers the cost barriers of running for office, it encourages young people and more women and people of color to run, it encourages more residents to get involved and invested in races with $10 contributions, and it dilutes the influence of the handful of big donors (like the chamber).
That's the actual "concern" the chamber has—that it'll work. It's no surprise that the group is against fair elections—and a number of who's who progressives who would normally throw money at a shadow if they came across it in City Hall—aren't contributing to this campaign. It'll cost them influence. Which is exactly why it's good for Seattle.