Washington voters say no to campaign-finance reform initiative

VANCOUVER — Voters in Clark County and Washington state said no to a statewide campaign-finance initiative that would have banned lobbyists and public contractors from making huge donations to influence state elections and required political ad makers to reveal their financial backers but also would have done away with a sales tax exemption for non-Washington residents who pay little to no sales tax in their home states.

As of the last ballot count, Initiative 1464 was failing by five percentage points statewide with 999,533 voters 52.6 percent rejecting the Democrat-backed initiative. In Clark County, the initiative had even less support, with nearly 60 percent saying no to the initiative.

Chandra Chase, communications director for the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, said last month that the local Chamber believed doing away with the sales tax exemption would negatively impact local businesses, particularly those in Vancouver, which shares two bridges with Oregon, a state that has no sales tax.

“It would absolutely impact everyday business sales in southwest Washington,” Chase says. “Vancouver is unique in our population size and proximity to Oregon. We will be the largest city negatively impacted if Oregon shoppers do not receive the exemption.”

Repealing the sales tax exemption for out-of-state shoppers in Oregon and other states like Montana, Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire and Alaska, would have funded the oversight and enforcement of Initiative 1464’s finance and ethics laws. Backers said such enforcement would cost around $30 million each year. Closing the sales tax exemption loophole would raise more than $285 million over the next 10 years.

Peter McCollum, spokesman for the Initiative 1464 campaign, argued that the initiative’s benefits would have been substantially greater than any possible negative effects of removing the sales tax exemption and that Initiative 1464 would have made Washington’s government more transparent, helped average citizens run for political office and make the state a more liveable place for everyone.  

“In Washington state this year alone, there will be $100 million spent on candidate campaigns and the overwhelming majority of that   80 percent is coming from lobbyists, unions, PACS, special interest groups … many are coming from outside the state,” McCollum told ClarkCountyToday.com during the campaign. “These big spenders don’t represent the best interests of Washington residents. They don’t represent the best interests of the people in Clark County.”

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