Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGLO 1973 No. 47 - April 11, 1973
AGO Opinion Header Image
Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

INITIATIVE NO. 276 ‑- REPORTING OF FINANCIAL INTERESTS ‑- ELECTIVE OFFICES CITY OF SEATTLE ‑- COMPLIANCE WITH CITY ORDINANCE

(1) The provisions of Initiative No. 276 which require candidates for public office to make reports of their financial interests and of their campaign contributions and expenditures are applicable to election campaigns for the various elective offices of the city of Seattle even though certain of these matters are also currently regulated by an ordinance of that city.

(2) The existing Seattle city ordinance relating to campaign financing, unless it is in conflict with Initiative No. 276 in some respect, must be deemed still to be of full force and effect ‑ along with the initiative ‑ insofar as any election campaigns which are regulated by its provisions are concerned.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   April 11, 1973

Honorable Jeff Douthwaite
State Representative, 43rd District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1973 No. 47

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on questions which we paraphrase as follows:

            (1) Are the provisions of Initiative No. 276 which require candidates for public office to make reports of their financial interests and of their campaign contributions and expenditures applicable to election campaigns for the various elective offices of the city of Seattle in view of the fact that certain of these matters are also currently regulated by an ordinance of that city?

            (2) If question (1) is answered in the affirmative, does compliance with the initiative excuse a candidate for elective office in that city from additionally complying with the reporting requirements of such city ordinance?

            We answer question (1) in the affirmative and question (2) in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question (1):

            Chapter I of Initiative No. 276, comprising §§ 3-14 of this measure, regulates the financing of electoral campaigns and requires certain detailed reports of campaign contributions and expenditures by candidates and political committees.  The scope of this chapter, in terms of the election campaigns to which it applies, is spelled out in § 3 of the initiative as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "The provisions of this act relating to election campaigns shall apply in all election campaigns other than (a) for precinct committeeman; (b) for the President and Vice President of the United States; and (c) for an office the constituency of which does not encompass a whole county and which contains less than five thousand registered voters as of the date of the most recent general election in such district."

            In addition, § 24 of the initiative requires all candidates for elective office ". . . except President, Vice President and precinct committeemen . . ." to file the same detailed reports of a number of listed items relating to their personal financial affairs and activities and similar matters as are required of persons who have been elected to these offices.  Insofar as its scope is concerned, the only difference between this latter section and §§ 3-14,supra, is that § 24 does not contain an exemption for elective offices in less than county-wide constituencies having a population of less than 5,000 voters ‑ as does § 3, supra.

            We are currently nearing completion of a comprehensive opinion answering a number of recurring questions regarding the reports which are required of candidates and political committees under these two portions of Initiative No. 276 ‑ and we will, of course, be happy to provide you with a copy of this opinion when it has been issued.  Suffice it to say for now, however, that our review of the initiative reveals nothing whatsoever contained therein which purports, in any way, to exempt a campaign for elective office from its provisions solely by reason of the fact that the activities of persons campaigning for that office are also regulated by a local, municipal ordinance or charter provision such as the Seattle city ordinance described in your letter.  Accordingly, since that city also obviously constitutes a constituency having 5,000 or more registered voters, it is our opinion that all candidates for its elective offices are required to comply with all of the reporting requirements of §§ 3-14 and 24 of Initiative No. 276 even though they may, in addition, also be required to make certain reports under the provisions of this city ordinance.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Question (2):

            Your second question assumes the foregoing answer to question (1) and asks whether compliance with the initiative will excuse a candidate for elective office in the city of Seattle from also complying with the reporting requirements of the above‑described local ordinance covering the same subjects.

            As a first class, charter city, the city of Seattle has the power to enact all ordinances not in conflict with any state constitutional provision or legislative enactment.  Winkenwerder v. Yakima, 52 Wn.2d 617, 622, 328 P.2d 873 (1958), and cases cited therein.  Thus, unless it is in conflict with Initiative No. 276 in some respect, the existing Seattle city ordinance relating to campaign financing which you have mentioned in your letter must be deemed still to be of full force and effect ‑ along with the initiative ‑ insofar as any election campaigns which are regulated by its provisions are concerned.

            It would not, of course, be appropriate for this office to attempt to answer any specific question involving the interpretation of this or any other city ordinance or charter provision ‑ for such is, more properly, the prerogative of the city attorney for the city involved ‑ in this case, the corporation counsel of the city of Seattle.  Unless, however, the ordinance here in question contains some express language exempting candidates from its provisions in view of the applicability of Initiative No. 276, we would find it most difficult to conceive of any valid basis for saying that a candidate for elective office in Seattle is wholly excused from reporting under the city ordinance solely because of the fact that he has filed those reports of his campaign finances and personal financial interests which are required by this initiative measure.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo