Condon to Veto Flawed Ordinance, Says Discussion Best at State Level

Brian Coddington, 509.625.6740

Friday, December 29, 2017 at 10:23 a.m.

Spokane Mayor David Condon said today that he intends to veto the constitutionally flawed Ordinance C35571 and that the campaign finance debate is best handled at the state level. He issued the following statement:

“Robust debate over campaign finance reform is a healthy thing for our election process to ensure individual voices and desires are heard at the ballot box. Unfortunately, as well-intended as it might have been, Ordinance C35571 fell short of that mark by creating redundant oversight, targeting local businesses, and leaving the City vulnerable to constitutional challenges on at least two fronts.

Like many of the recent City Council-driven changes that impact local businesses, campaign finance reform is best accomplished at the state level to avoid redundant systems of oversight. The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission already regulates one of the most complex and developed set of statewide campaign finance laws in the country. In fact, a recent PDC investigation found a local PAC did not follow state law for reporting independent expenditures and fined the PAC.

I wholeheartedly support debate and discussion about improving our campaign finance rules statewide. The City should look to reform our state campaign finance rules and change rule-making process at the state PDC, and through legislation like Sen. Andy Billig’s DISCLOSE Act, which addresses many of the issues raised by Ordinance C35571.

Any reform must be evenly applied and not target local business interests in violation of their free-speech rights. This ordinance bans campaign donations from certain City contractors – whose political influence is already shielded by the City’s strict low-bid process – while freely permitting donations from public-sector unions that negotiate their contracts behind closed doors. The fundamental right to participate in the political process is recognized as a part of our free-speech liberties under the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has directed that any restrictions on free speech must be viewpoint-neutral; a law restricting speech cannot favor one group’s speech over the speech of another similarly situated group.

Finally, the ordinance punishes candidates who choose to self-fund their campaigns, giving their opponents the ability to exceed the Ordinance-imposed contribution limits. This concept is akin to statutes that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down on at least two separate occasions.

Continuing this piece-meal approach to local legislation is not building a healthier Spokane. It puts our citizens at risk of expensive litigation and continues to paint Spokane as a City that places uneven and heavy-handed restrictions on local businesses.”