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King County Council examines public campaign financing

King County citizens gathered in Shoreline May 19 to learn about the feasibility of a public campaign financing system for county elections. More than 130 people attended the Metropolitan King County Council town hall meeting hosted by Councilmember Bob Ferguson at the Shoreline Conference Center. Councilmembers attended the meeting, where they received the results of a campaign finance reform study the council initiated in April. They also heard a panel discussion and public comment on the topic.

“Public campaign financing allows candidates to speak with voters, rather than spending all their time dialing for dollars,” said Ferguson, who represents District 1, which covers Bothell, Kenmore and neighboring cities. “The decision to have public campaign financing in King County will ultimately rest with the voters, so this meeting was a great opportunity for citizens to learn more about the issue.”

“Public campaign financing could help campaigns stay focused on issues, rather than fund-raising,” said Councilmember Dow Constantine, chair of the Committee of the Whole. “The Town Hall was a first step in giving this topic the careful study and consideration it deserves.”

Public campaign financing, or voter-owned elections, allows candidates to receive public funding for their campaigns once they demonstrate broad community support. A candidate must collect a set number of small “qualifying contributions” from voters in their district. For example, a candidate might have to raise 500 small contributions of $5 each in order to qualify for public financing.

Panelists included Seattle University professor Joaquin Ávila, a member of the city of Seattle task force currently studying public campaign financing, and former King County Councilmember Lois North, who offered a historical look at public campaign financing in King County.

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