Campaign finance initiative may qualify for the fall ballot: repeals tax exemption to fund vouchers for campaign giving

The Associated Press reports,

More than 326,000 signatures have been turned in to the Washington secretary of state’s office in support of a proposed ballot measure that would make a series of campaign-finance changes, including the creation of a publicly funded voucher system for contributions.

Supporters of Initiative 1464 called it a “comprehensive initiative.” 

 That may depend on what you mean by comprehensive. It’s certainly sweeping. The initiative is sponsored by a group called Integrity Washington, which seeks to “reduce the corrupting influence of big money” in politics. As the AP reports, as seems to be the two-step we see in presenting major policy changes (think minimum wage), the measure had its premier in Seattle.
Seattle voters passed a similar citywide measure, Initiative 122, last year — the first place in the country to approve so-called “democracy vouchers.” In doing so, voters agreed to raise taxes by $3 million a year to get four $25 vouchers they can sign over to candidates for mayor, City Council or city attorney, starting with the council and city attorney elections next year.
The Seattle Times reported that the I-122 campaign was “steeped in irony.”
Arguing that big money corrupts local politics, advocates for I-122 raised $1.384 million — nearly a record amount — and 30 times what their opponents mustered.
The AP story summarizes I-1464:
I-1464 seeks to do several things, including creating a voucher system that would give voters three $50 “democracy credits” that they can use in state races every two years. To pay for the statewide system, I-1464 would repeal the nonresident sales-tax exemption for residents of sales-tax-free states like Oregon who shop in Washington.
I-1464 would also impose tougher donor-disclosure requirements on political advertisements and limit the amount of money that contractors and lobbyists can contribute to candidates. It also would impose a three-year waiting period before former elected officials and senior staff can lobby their previous employers and colleagues.
The repealed tax exemption has contributed to some prominent opposition to the measure.

Bob Battles, general counsel and director of government affairs for employment law at the business association, said that they have several concerns with the measure, including the repeal of the nonresident sales-tax exemption.

“That will hurt our border businesses,” he said. “There’s real business to be lost.”

Battles also said the campaign-finance vouchers will have a limited benefit because rich candidates can choose to not participate and still privately fund their campaigns.

One to watch.