Just as the Supreme Court ruled to remove another limitation to campaign contributions, a new Washington initiative is gaining momentum to do the opposite.
I-1329 aims to “get big money out of politics” and will partner with small and medium-sized businesses across the state to gather signatures for a petition focusing on November’s general election.
Zeeks Pizza in Issaquah has one of the petition boxes, available for customers to learn more and sign in support of the initiative.
Its owner, Senator Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), calls his pizzeria a fitting site for the petition.
“I don’t have a lot of extra money floating around. I can’t hire a lobbyist to go to Olympia for me and argue on my behalf,” he said. “Small business owners in particular I think would rather not have large businesses controlling the dialogue.”
The 1329 Initiative calls their new business collaboration “Another Business for Democracy.”
It is strategic as much as it is symbolic. They only have 20,000 signatures right now.
“We’ve got 3 months to get 280,000 more signatures so we need a heck of a way more help,” explained I-1329 Campaign Manager Libby Carr.
Carr and other volunteers hope the petition boxes in store fronts like Zeeks Pizza, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and several coffee shops will make the petitions easily accessible to a captive audience of customers.
If 1329 makes it to the general election ballot in November and voters pass it, Washington would become the 17th state to ask Congress to amend the US Constitution in favor of limiting corporate campaign contributions.
The work began after the 2010 SCOTUS ruling on Citizens United, which defined corporations as persons whose campaign contributions are protected under the First Amendment.
Without such an amendment limiting corporate campaign contributions, Carr says, elections are too heavily swayed by money.
“It means you can buy elections,” Carr said. “We don’t want our elections bought and paid for.”
After Wednesday’s decision to lift the ban on aggregate campaign donations, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:
"Our cases have held that Congress may regulate campaign contributions to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption...Congress may not regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others."
Though I-1329 volunteers understand their goal is daunting, they believe it’s possible, and too important not to pursue.
“The idea is if you make everyone go to 1,000 people to raise money, it levels the playing field,” Mullet said.
I-1329 hopes to secure more than 300,000 signatures by late June. Their ballot deadline is early July.