City Hall

Council Members Squirrel Away Funds in Anticipation of New Campaign-Finance Restrictions

In anticipation of new restrictions on campaign fundraising, city council members squirrel away money for 2015 just before a critical deadline.

By Erica C. Barnett December 12, 2012


Image via Seattle Channel.

It may seem a little early to be looking at the 2015 elections, but an important deadline just passed that has big financial implications for anyone running for city office that year: Legislation that bars incumbents from keeping any surplus funds  in their campaign accounts went into effect on November 16, prompting four incumbent city council members who are up for reelection in 2015—Sally Clark, Bruce Harrell, Tim Burgess (who's also running for mayor in 2013), and Tom Rasmussen—to take action to preserve or donate their existing campaign funds.

The new law, which also limits campaign fundraising to two years starting the January of the year preceding an election year, will impact candidates running in 2015 and later. 

On November 15, Rasmussen moved $45,000 from his 2011 campaign into his 2015 fund. He also transferred a little more than $10,000 to his office fund—a fund council members and the mayor may use on virtually any city "office"-related purpose—zeroing out his surplus fund. Rasmumssen wasn't totally self-serving, though. He also donated to the state Democratic Party ($15,000 total, on top of $25,000 earlier this fall). the West Seattle Senior Center ($5,000), the Pride Foundation ($5,000), and the Southwest Seattle Historical Society ($5,000). 

Harrell transferred $45,000 into his 2015 campaign on November 15, put $10,000 from his surplus 2011 campaign fund into his office fund, and contributed $1,500 to the Central Area Senior Center.

Clark transferred about $29,000 from her 2011 surplus fund to her 2015 campaign on October 10, and also donated to the state Democrats ($10,000), Mary's Place, the homeless women's day center ($5,000), Youthcare ($5,000), and the Washington Bus Education Fund ($1,000). 

And Burgess refunded $75,000 in contributions back to donors, presumably in anticipation of his mayoral race; city candidates who run for an office other than the one they currently hold are required to get individual permission from each prior donor to use their contributions in a new campaign. Burgess also contributed $25,000 to the state Democrats. 

We have calls out to council members and will update when we hear back from them. 



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