Tue December 3, 2013
Council Rejects Municipal Campaign Finance Proposal
Columbus City Council last night voted unanimously against adopting a proposed ordinance that would limit spending in mayoral and council campaigns.
Council instead voted to send the issue to the Franklin County Board of Elections for approval before it can be placed before voters next year. But city officials say the proposal by a group called the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government contains significant factual and legal problems. The proposal asks council and mayoral candidates to voluntarily limit campaign spending to 85 thousand and 350 thousand dollars respectively. Candidates who agree would then share a 300 thousand dollar pool of casino tax revenue created to supplement their campaign finances. Council members did not debate the proposal last night, but instead asked City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer and Finance Director Paul Rakosky for their input. Pfeiffer says the written summary of the proposal is misleading.
Pfeiffer says using casino tax revenue violates the city charter and the plan would not stand up to legal challenges in the courts.
Rakosky says the plan diverts tax dollars from neighborhoods.
The coalition gathered more than 9 thousand verified petition signatures for its proposal, which seeks to end the Democratic party's hold on municipal government. Mayor Michael Coleman is a Democrat who was elected in 1999. All seven council members are Democrats who were first appointed to their seats. They then ran for election as incumbents, giving them an advantage in campaign funding and name recognition. Coalition president Jonathan Beard.
Another supporter of the proposal is long time city hall critic Willis Brown of the Bronzeville Neighborhood Association. Brown says council and the mayor represent the interests of local power brokers rather than the people on issues of the day.
Campaign finance reports show the three Democratic council incumbents on last month's ballot raised a total of 67 thousand dollars for the election, and got more than 200 thousand dollars in in-kind contributions from council president Andy Ginther. The three losing challengers in the race raised a total of 66 hundred dollars after the May primary. Coleman spent more than 900 thousand dollars on his 2011 re-election campaign.