Council caps campaign donations

May 18, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 10:07 p.m. May 18, 2009

With the start of campaign season two weeks away, City Council members voted tonight to limit campaign contributions to $500 from a single party. The cap includes both cash and in-kind donations in the total.

The rules will go into effect June 1, the same day candidates can begin to file to run for mayor or four open City Council seats. The filing period ends June 5.

Council members voted 5-1 in favor of the bill. Councilwoman Eileen Barber cast the dissenting vote. Councilman John Rittenhouse, the main proponent of the legislation, did not attend the meeting due to illness.

Councilman Joshua Schaer said the campaign finance bill was one of the most divisive issues he had encountered as a council member — at least among his colleagues.

“Surprisingly, for being this divisive in my mind, we’ve had very minimal public feedback,” he said. Though Schaer voted in favor of the measure, he said he shared some of Barber’s reservations about the bill.

The bill will add campaign finance language to the city code. The ordinance will be enforced by complaint in a way similar to how other city code violations are brought to attention and addressed.

As council members considered the bill during the last several weeks, Barber raised questions about creating additional regulations. She raised the issue tonight as well.

“I want to once again express my concerns about implementing excess regulation, in my opinion, as a preventative measure,” she said.

Existing rules direct candidates to follow guidelines set by the King County Board of Ethics and the state Public Disclosure Commission.

“I think that the oversight that we have now is sufficient,” Barber added.

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