In a surprise move, the Senate killed a landmark campaign finance transparency bill that had previously passed the Senate a unanimous 49-0 vote.

SB 5153 had been amended in the House to make technical changes. Rather than bring the bill up for a vote to concur in or reject the House amendments, either of which would have helped move the transparency policy forward, the Senate’s Republican leadership left the bill to die for the 2015 session.

When Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane and the sponsor of the bill, moved to have the bill considered, every member of the Republican caucus reversed their vote from earlier in the session and voted against consideration of the bill.

“This bill is a smart, common-sense step forward to ensure the transparency in our elections that our democracy depends on and voters deserve,” said Billig. “I had appreciated the assurances from the Senate Republican Majority Leader and Floor Leader that they would work with me to pass this bill, and I’m shocked that they suddenly decided to kill the bill instead. No real explanation has been offered. There’s no reason to block transparency unless there is something to hide.”

SB 5153 was endorsed by newspaper editorial boards across the state including the Spokesman-Review, the Seattle Times, the Olympian, and the Columbian.  The bill was also supported by Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

“I very recently heard concerns about the bill from some business organizations like the Association of General Contractors who currently use loopholes in our campaign finance transparency laws to hide their funding and activities from the public,” saidBillig. “I understand why they want to keep their political donors secret, but that is not in the best interest of the voters or consistent with the spirit of the voter-approved initiatives that created the Public Disclosure Commission. But the Senate Republicans were willing to accommodate these types of organizations and let the status quo of dark money in our state continue.

“It is so disappointing that the Senate Republicans have decided to stand up for more dark money in politics rather than standing up for the campaign transparency that the voters deserve and a healthy democracy demands,” Billig continued.

The bill would require that non-profit organizations that participate in political campaigns register with the Public Disclosure Commission as incidental political committees and disclose their campaign-related contributions and expenditures, as candidates and traditional political action committees already do. The bill would apply to groups across the political spectrum, from the SEIU-funded Working Washington group that participated in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Sea-Tac to the Grocery Manufacturers Association that campaigned to defeat Initiative 522, both examples from 2013.

Billig vowed to continue working to pass the legislation.

“The bill will have the opportunity to be considered again in special session later this year, and in next year’s regular session if we can’t act this year. I hope that the Republicans can recognize the need for this important good government measure, and bring the bill up for a vote so that we can ensure transparency in our campaigns. I am certainly not giving up the fight to protect our democracy and our voters.”