Registered ballot issue committee working on better political representation of citizens in Columbus. “Triggering” issue:
Campaign finance issues are a normal part of every political process … the issue is whether the public attempts to manage it in pursuit of the common good. Perfecting our democracy is a never-ending effort, and it must happen at all levels of government.
1994 concerns about amount of money in campaigns, including out-of-state money. This was the 2 nd election where more than $250,000 was raised for a council race (Cynthia Lazarus) Campaign finance reform was sweeping the nation: the state of Ohio enacted CFR in that year.
“Salerno said campaign finance reform is needed to level the playing field for challengers, who usually have fewer connections with high-powered contributors. ‘If it takes six figures to win elections locally, you’re just going to continue to have incumbents win’, Salerno said. ‘It doesn’t allow the public the access they should have to the challengers.” (The Columbus Dispatch. Quoting Amy Salerno, Republican candidate for City Council, in Lazarus, Others Sound Reform Call on City Elections, December 13, 1993.) “Cynicism about government at all levels has been growing for some time. Certainly the huge amounts of money that grease the election process result in many citizens believing officeholders do the bidding of their powerful supporters, and the average citizen has almost no voice.” (The Columbus Dispatch. Campaign Gold – Council Working toward Election Reform, July 21, 1994.)
Form ballot committee File certified pre-circulation copy of petition with city Gather signatures of 5% of city electors for an initiated ordinance (10% for charter amendments) Submit completed petitions to Clerk If enough signatures: Council votes: with a “yes” vote the initiative becomes law, with a “no” vote and it goes to the ballot.
1995: Issue 6 charter amendment to allow campaign finance regulation was proposed with broad support: “Nothing in this Charter, directly or through incorporation of state election laws, shall prevent the City from adopting ordinances, enforcing requirements, or setting limits on campaign finances or monetary contributions relating to elections for City offices.” Issue 6 was approved by 63% of voters. No campaign limits were ever adopted by Council ordinance.
The vast majority of campaign funding is being raised and spent by one PAC (62% of all spending in the last two election cycles, including 70% when not on ballot in 2013 by Friends for Ginther) Most council candidates (incumbent or challenger) can not independently raise enough money for their own elections ($11K-$56K v. $1K- $5K), with current city-wide council elections. Mayoral elections exaggerate the challenger campaign funding difficulties ($854K v. $7K in 2011)
In July 2012, we filed 27,000+ signatures in support of council districts, but did not have the 18,000+ valid signatures needed to move to ballot. In August 2013, we filed sufficient signatures for both Columbus Fair Campaigns code and Arena Bailouts Demand a Vote, but the Franklin County Board of Elections dismissed them for technical reasons after protests.
On April 15, 2014, the Coalition filed its certified pre-circulation copy of the proposed Columbus Fair Campaigns Code initiated ordinance with the City Clerk. On July 15 th, the Coalition submitted 497 part-petitions (roughly 16,200 signatures) to the Clerk. (4,590 valid signatures needed) July 18 th, the City Clerk, on advice of City Attorney, would not forward petitions to BoE for validation. August 6 th, Coalition filed Mandamus Complaint with Ohio Supreme Court tp force Clerk to do her charter duty. Expedited election action: decision expected by mid-September.
Conflict between Ohio statute and case law regarding which city office receives the certified pre-circulation petition. Under the City Charter, the Clerk of Council performs all petition processing duties, but the charter is silent on pre- circulation. The default is to state law. The Ohio Revised Code has the city auditor performing all petition duties (including receiving the pre-circulation filing). However, 1990 case law (Ohio Supreme Court-decided) says in charter cities pre-circulation petition should be filed with the same city official that has charter duties to evaluate their sufficiency (the Clerk in Columbus -- the Auditor has no petition-related duties in Columbus charter). We filed with the Clerk, the City is saying we should have filed our pre-circulation copy with the Auditor, thus they are under no duty to process the petitions. We disagree.
The over-riding public purpose of elections and campaigns is to get adequate and accurate information to the people. The people are well-served when all candidates can adequately present their case for the office (i.e., voters can choose in a marketplace of ideas). Fair and competitive elections are in the public interest.
“Qualified candidates” agree to limit contributions and expenditures ($100K for council /$500K for mayor) In exchange for agreeing to limits, candidates get a package of publicly provided benefits that enable them to get their messages to the public broadly and less expensively.
Creates disclosure of participation as “qualified candidate.” Mandatory debates televised on city-run cable TV stations. Share in Columbus Fair Campaigns Fund – public financing up to $80K, minimally funded by 1.5% of state casino tax distributed to Columbus in election years. Low-cost access to city-run cable TV station time 2-year campaign period for raising money (raise money during your own election cycle) Liquidated damages (3X) for overspending caps Waives agreed limits in certain situations Defines Independent vs. campaign expenditures for purposes of spending caps
“Aren’t spending caps unconstitutional?” (No. Neither Citizens United nor McCutcheon made candidate spending limits unlawful – they dealt with third party spending). “I don’t support public spending to get politicians elected “ (Our public benefit goals are greater competition for elected office and more responsive office holders. Note that public spending on elections is already in place throughout the country at all levels of government, including in Ohio state elections.) “There are no real caps since they can be waived under certain conditions, thus this is toothless.” (Spending Cap waivers remove dis-incentives to join the publicly-financed program, and there are substantial penalties for over-spending caps without cause.) “You are not proposing a ‘matching funds’ program” (Correct – and neither is anyone else. Raising money is not a pre-requisite for public office under the city charter, nor should it be a primary focus of potential office-holders. We were reluctant to put another barrier to entry given the issues of competitiveness now in play).
Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government 1051 E. Main Street Columbus, OH 43205 (614) 595-2986 www.columbuscoalition.info www.columbuscoalition.info www.facebook.com/columbus.coalition www.facebook.com/columbus.coalition Jonathan Beard: firstname.lastname@example.org@colscompact.com Help needed: Doing community presentations, social media letter-writing, talk/open support, and public relations/communications.