Friday, September 6, 2013

Campaign finance reform: an activist who won't give up, a county councilman who never understood

Greg Coleridge won't stop. After the Cuyahoga County Council made it clear it doesn't want to regulate the flow of money in county politics in any way, the longtime activist penned an opinion piece for about the lost opportunity to protect our new county government. got councilman Michael Gallagher to write a response. In July, Gallagher took the lead in arguing down the charter commission's proposal to give council the power to regulate campaign donations.

Sadly, embarrassingly, Gallagher's op-ed piece shows he didn't even understand what he and the council rejected. He spends the entire piece arguing against limiting the total amount of money any one political candidate can spend.

No one proposed that.  It's illegal. Courts ruled long ago that you can't stop a candidate from spending money.

What you can limit is how much money any one donor can give a politician. That's the rule in national, state and city of Cleveland elections, in order to keep one or two or three wealthy donors from paying for almost all of a candidate's campaign.

Coleridge sums up Gallagher's mistake with a headline on his blog: "Politician confuses political contribution limits with political spending limits."

County politicians have gotten checks for $25,000, $36,000, $50,000, $300,000, and $400,000 in the past.  Once a candidate takes office, what sort of debt do they feel to the writer of checks that big?

Now ought to be the perfect time to ban jumbo-sized donations.  Jimmy Dimora, the poster boy for county reform, testified last week before a grand jury about suspected illegal activity around the 2005 purchase of the Ameritrust complex. Dimora voted to buy the Ameritrust property from the late Dick Jacobs, who seeded Dimora's first campaign for county commission with a $36,000 check.  The county sold the Ameritrust complex this year -- at an $18 million loss to taxpayers.

Coleridge still hopes the county council will change its mind on campaign finance reform. But what are the odds, when Gallagher doesn't even understand what's possible, and most councilpeople clearly want the issue to go away?  It looks like there's only one way for reform-minded people to create a sane campaign finance system in Cuyahoga County -- a citizens' petition for a charter amendment.

1 comment:

Chuck Osborne said...

People need to wake up to what our government is doing to all of us! Greg, hope you keep up the fight to make it better for all of us!!