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Washington House Considers State Campaign Finance Reform Bill


A bill that’s making its way through the Washington state House of Representatives would make campaign contributions more transparent. It passed the state Senate last month.

The bill is still being debated. According to the version in the House right now, nonprofits and other similar organization that spend $25,000 or more to advocate for or against ballot measures and candidates will have to disclose the names of donors that give more than $10,000.

It’s sponsored by state Senator Andy Billig, a Democrat from Spokane.

“This bill is quite a moderate approach,” he said. “It doesn’t say that a non-profit can’t spend money on elections. It just says ‘if you do, disclose your donors.’ It doesn’t even say you have to disclose all your donors. It just says ‘let’s see who the big money behind the donations are.’”

A version of the bill failed last year, defeated by the Republican majority in Washington’s state Senate. But this year, Democrats control the Senate and passed it last month.

During a public hearing Wednesday, supporters told the committee the bill closes loopholes and has bipartisan support. They also said it would boost confidence in the state’s election process.

But opponents are concerned it could hinder free speech.

“This bill would impact small local associations,” said Mark Johnson, vice president of government affairs for the Washington Retail Association. “This bill will have the unintended consequence of encouraging the opportunity to file more complaints against more organizations. If the goal is to improve campaign finance laws, one way might be to streamline the laws that exist now and better fund the [Public Disclosure Commission].”

In his testimony, Johnson called for stricter enforcement of existing campaign finance laws in Washington.