November 29, 2021

The Commission approved a request from the political committee A Better Seattle to lift a $1,000 limit on contributions from donors.

A Better Seattle, which registered with the PDC in October, supports a Dec. 7 recall vote against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. Under state law, recall campaigns are subject to the same limits that apply to contributions for the office facing a recall. Under state law, city council races have a $1,000 per individual contributor limit.

But following a 2012 federal court decision, political committees have been permitted to seek a declaratory order from the Commission asking for an exemption. The court in that case likened committees in a recall election to committees making independent expenditures in an election. Independent expenditure committees are not subject to contribution limits.

A Better Seattle, which is separate from the committee Recall Sawant that registered with the PDC in August 2020, filed a petition for a declaratory order on Nov. 15.

The Commission’s order conditions the contribution limit exemption on A Better Seattle not coordinating activities with or involving other Seattle City Councilmembers, who may have a role in appointing a successor should the recall effort succeed. The committee must also avoid coordinating its campaign with council staff or council candidates.

Those conditions mirror those established in the 2012 court case and applied in a previous declaratory order granted to the recall committee against then-Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Lawyers for Sawant and for the Kshama Solidarity Campaign committee, who are supporting Sawant to defeat the recall, argued that the PDC lacked authority to make the decision. They also said the timing of the decision was too close to the election date and that granting the exemption would be inequitable.