Friday, January 25, 2013
The state’s Public Disclosure Commission plays a key role in our government. It serves as the election watchdog to ensure the public knows who contributes to campaigns and what candidates do with that money.
Funding for the PDC has not kept pace with the need as Washington state has had to cut spending in the midst of the Great Recession. This is hardly a surprise as education,public safety and social services are top priorities. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate as the election watchdog might be on guard but it doesn’t have enough cash to effectively get the information to its master, the public.
State Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, proposed a plan to raise money to strengthen the PDC so it can improve its online finance disclosure system.
Moeller has made this pitch before without success. Given that much of the watching is of the foxes, er, legislators, this is hardly a surprise.
Moeller’s new proposal would be funded by a fee paid by lobbyists and politicians who file reports to the PDC. This fee is expected to generate about $600,000 a year to make the agency more effective by giving the public easier access to this information. The PDC has been largely ineffective but the amount of money that would be collected should make the agency far more effective.
The suggested annual fee seems reasonable. It would be $200 for politicians and lobbyists who make at least $10,000 a year and smaller fees for government lobbyists and other smaller fees for those who earn less but still are required to file reports at the PDC.
Moeller appears to be right on target in trying to make the PDC more effective. Charging a user fee to those who must work with the PDC makes sense.