North Bend campaign financing will be public

NORTH BEND - In the future, anybody wondering who supports a candidate running for North Bend public office can simply follow the money.

Last month, the state's Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) approved a petition from North Bend that will require every candidate for city office to disclose who gave money to their campaign. Cities that have fewer than 5,000 registered voters are not required to have such a disclosure. North Bend has just over 3,000 registered voters.

"On Oct. 5 [the day the City Council approved submitting the petition to the PDC], we set a new standard in North Bend," said Councilman Mark Sollitto, who drafted the resolution supporting the petition. "All the families in North Bend deserve to know what is going on in their city."

In future elections, candidates for public office will need to register and file reports with the PDC. Candidates who plan on raising no more than $3,500 total, or no more than $300 from one source, will register and select mini reporting. Under mini reporting the candidate files a registration report but does not have to file details of contributions received and expenditures made. Other provisions of the disclosure law, such as having campaign books open for public inspection eight days before the election date, would also apply.

The other, more extensive reporting is required for those who plan on raising more than $3,500 total or more than $300 from a single source. This full reporting option requires that candidates list the names and addresses of donors who contribute more than $25. For those who give more than $100, their names and addresses, as well as their occupation and employer information must also be listed.

Donor information for the full report is filed on a monthly basis up until July 1. After that, it is updated on a weekly basis until the election date. The full report's expenditure reports are made public 21 days before Election Day, and then again seven days before Election Day.

"It's just a way to build confidence with the citizens," Doug Ellis, PDC spokesman, said.

The request for financial disclosure came at the behest of the North Bend City Council, which voted 4-1 on Oct. 5 to file the petition with the PDC. Councilman Dave Cook voted against the resolution, which he said was rushed before him without any discussion.

"It was put before us at the last minute at a council meeting," he said. "I won't vote for anything under those circumstances."

Since the city is growing, Councilman Chris Garcia said he voted for the resolution because it's something that would eventually become city policy.

"I figured we were going to get to this point someday anyway," Garcia said.

Ellis said some cities go beyond elected officials and require that certain appointed officials, such as city administrators, file financial information. There are not many cities in Washington that are the size of North Bend and have the disclosure laws, however, and the city may be at the forefront of a more transparent way of disclosing information.

"The public is starting to question the campaign funding process, even in the smaller communities," Ellis said.

This year, Garcia and Councilman Bill Wittress are up for re-election. Mayor Ken Hearing and the other three council members are up for re-election in 2007.

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