The Public Disclosure Commission has come a long way in the past 50-plus years since Washington voters adopted Initiative 276 and established our state’s system of campaign finance disclosure and governance.
Our five-member, governor-appointed/Senate-confirmed Commission, of which I am the current chair, is studying how we can improve transparency for the public and streamline reporting methods for those who must disclose campaign contributions and expenditures, personal financial information, spending by lobbyists, and other data that’s regularly reported to the PDC.
We recently took a deep look at the strategic goals we set in 2020 and the substantial progress we’ve made:
- The PDC is routinely auditing campaigns again after many resource-constrained years in which such valuable intelligence gathering about the state of public disclosure had to be put aside.
- We’ve developed a robust training program to help candidates, PACs, lobbyists, elected officials, and others know how and what to report and how to stay compliant.
- We’re only days away from getting our campaign reporting system off treasurers’ hard drives and into the cloud, ensuring the continued viability and dependability of the PDC’s most used filing system.
We’ve also made great strides in the area of digital political ad disclosure, updating the requirements for platforms that sell political advertising to ensure that the rules set reasonable expectations while protecting the public’s right to inspect records of ad buys.
The Commission continues to work in this area to ensure that campaigns are also providing the details the public needs and identifying purchases as political ads when they do business with advertising vendors. Our discussions with digital platforms and other states also continue, and we remain hopeful that the future will bring better tools for tracking political ads.
While renewing our commitment to that and other focus areas, the Commission is also looking to make strides on additional fronts.
Finding more ways to engage our varied constituencies.
We welcome input from members of the regulated community and the general public. But we realize that, too often, we hear only from those with narrow interests or other “squeaky wheels.”
In an effort to ensure robust input from the public, we will hold periodic stakeholder forums. Our goal is to host at least some of these forums outside of Olympia, where we might focus on an issue of local interest or partner with a college or university.
We also plan to step up our outreach to local jurisdictions and professional associations who can help us reach more of the people we regulate. The first and most important step in promoting disclosure is ensuring that we’ve provided the tools the regulated community needs to get it right.
Fostering better disclosure of lobbying activity.
The current structure of how lobbying activities are disclosed is fragmented and makes it difficult to follow influence in the legislative process. What’s more, many of the current reporting requirements date to the passage of Initiative 276 in 1972 and need to be reviewed to ensure they meet modern-day needs.
We’re looking at potential changes in the inputs and the outputs – the information that must be reported, how we collect it, and how it is published. The overriding goal is to provide a more complete picture of the activities that affect public policy on everything from public safety to environmental protection.
We hope you will follow our progress as we launch these new initiatives and continue to pursue our standing strategic projects. Let us know what you think. You can submit public comments at email@example.com. Or view monthly Commission meetings that are listed on our website calendar at www.pdc.wa.gov/news-events/events.