After an election year of unprecedented spending—around $4 million of it by Super PACs—the Seattle City Council has unanimously passed two bills that will restrict political contributions by companies with at least 5 percent foreign ownership and clamp down on political advertising.
These bills are part of Council President Lorena Gonzalez's Clean Campaigns Act, a three-bill package that she began introducing in August of last year. Gonzalez has championed the legislation and saw it get passed through the Select Committee on Campaign Finance Reform last week, but she was not present for the full-council vote today. That's because Gonzalez gave birth to her first child, Nadia Luciana González-Williams, on Friday. (To put this in perspective, Gonzalez's last day at City Hall was on Wednesday).
Still, Gonzalez's hard work, which is being stewarded in her absence by Councilmember Lisa Herbold (now Council President pro-tem Herbold), was unanimously approved today by the seven present members of the council (Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda is also on maternity leave).
The beefiest of the Gonzalez's three "Clean Campaigns" bills, which would restrict Super PAC donations, was excluded from today's vote and will be voted on in the spring.
The first bill passed today prohibits "foreign-influenced corporations from making independent expenditures or contributing to campaigns and independent expenditure committees," according to council documents.
"We know that out of the 20 largest corporations [that donated to] PACs in 2019," Herbold said, "at least 7 of those 20 could have met the definition of a foreign influence corporation. It defies logic to allow groups of foreign nationals to fund political spending through corporations."
The second bill that passed today adds transparency to the political advertising realm.
It requires "any paid advertisement regarding a political matter of local importance" to follow stricter reporting guidelines and to retain and provide records about these advertisements.
There was no discussion on the bills except for a brief comment by Councilmember Dan Strauss about how "transparency and light" on the legislative process is good.
While this is a big step forward for the Clean Campaigns Act—and a big fuck you to the Seattle Times editorial board—the third bill, which would place a cap on Super PAC contributions, remains in committee and will be discussed during Gonzalez's absence.