Thursday, October 8, 2009

Issue 5 vs. 6: the reform duel gets nasty

It's 26 days before Cuyahoga County chooses among the dueling reform plans, and the fight has gotten nasty.

The huge Plain Dealer headline today started the brawl: "Issue 5 supporters call on Mason to return donations." Bill Mason, Issue 6 co-architect and the only county official whose job wouldn't be wiped out by his ballot proposal, got $102,000 in contributions from his own employees over the last five years.

The Issue 5 people want him to return it all. They're also arguing that 6 should be shot down because it doesn't include campaign finance reform that makes it illegal for county officials to get employee donations.

"He's put together a plan that essentially fosters corruption," Issue 5 spokesman Brian Wright tells the PD.

False: it only leaves the same campaign finance rules in place. {Update, 11/1: I originally wrote that we don't know if we'll get campaign finance reform if 5 passes either. Still technically correct, but most of the pro-5 Real Reform Done Right charter commission slate has since said they'd include it in a new charter.}

But the 5 supporters' attack is shrewd. It puts the spotlight on Mason, an aspiring reformer, yet someone known for embracing some old-school political tactics.

Mason fought back. He asked whether Issue 5 supporters Jim Rokakis, Peter Lawson Jones, Frank Jackson and Marcia Fudge will return their donations from employees.

Oops: Rokakis doesn't take any. Fudge can't, by law, and didn't when she was a mayor -- she fired off a press release saying so this afternoon. {Update, 10/9: The PD's story says Jackson got only $150 from city employees last year. Jones has taken $13,000 from county workers in two years. "You have to balance employees' First Amendment rights with not putting them in a position where they feel pressured to give," Jones says.}

An hour ago, the 6 campaign struck back, with Martin Zanotti, Joe Cimperman, and Nina Turner all offering scathing quotes. Since it's not online, I'll paste it below.

By "lie and smears," I'm guessing Zanotti means the false argument I mentioned above, though Mason's employees' (legal) contributions are a matter of record.

Also, I picked up a flyer today from an Issue 5 supporter. That's the front side of it at the top of this post. Here's the other side:

It's intended for union members -- hence its claim that Issue 6 is the "big business/Republican reform plan," though the 6 effort also includes many prominent Democrats. Also, it's funny how it uses a Plain Dealer quote to make 6 sound bad -- when the paper's editorial page is very pro-6.

Dueling reforms? This is no gentlemanly contest: it's a bare-fisted brawl.

Press release from Issue 6 campaign:
County politicians will say anything to stop real reform

Blasting back against the rank hypocrisy and unfounded slurs against County Prosecutor and Issue 6 co-chair Bill Mason, other Issue 6 co-chairs called on Issue 5 supporters to admit their role in causing the crisis that makes real county reform a necessity.

“The lie and smears coming from the Issue 5 campaign are really stunning, and the voters of Cuyahoga County aren’t going to buy what they’re selling,” said Parma Hts. Mayor and Issue 6 co-chair Marty Zanotti. “Why are they going after County Prosecutor Mason? It’s simple: because he’s actually standing up for real reform. Why didn’t they ask for donation returns from themselves? Dimora, Russo, Hagan, and Jones are the reason we need reform in the first place.”

“We’ve seen this all before,” continued Zanotti. “Reform has been debated and killed for decades in this county. Entrenched political interests refuse to give up their fiefdoms. This flailing by the Issue 5 campaign is just meant to confuse voters, just like Issue 5 itself is meant to confuse voters. When they are really scared, they start with the personal attacks, as we’ve now seen with their attempts to discredit Prosecutor Mason. He’s tough enough to stand up to them, and county voters are smart enough not to fall for their lies and tricks.”

Cleveland City Councilman and Issue 6 co-chair Joe Cimperman said, “Issue 6 means real reform, real checks and balances, and a real chance to turn our county around. Our opponents are trying everything they can to derail real reform. More than 50,000 signed a petition to put Issue 6 on the ballot. We won’t rest until county residents know that that the way to real reform is No on 5, Yes on 6.”

State Senator and Issue 6 co-chair Nina Turner said, “Don’t be fooled: this is the last gasp of a dying political cabal clinging to its final breath. It won’t work. Cuyahoga County residents are sick of the crime, corruption, and cronyism of the past. We all deserve better, and we aim to get it with Issue 6. This is our golden hour – the point where we have a real chance to enact change in this county. We need to take advantage of this chance and pass Issue 6.”

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