Sunday, May 21, 2000

Chesley, Lindner tout national clout

Spending limits recently defeated

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati is not only a major source of campaign dollars for both Republicans and Democrats, but it also is the battleground for one of the campaign finance reform movement's biggest defeats in recent years.

        For a brief period in 1997, Cincinnati had both a campaign spending limit and contribution limits for Cincinnati City Council campaigns.

        The spending limit of three times a council member's salary, passed along with contribution limits on a 5-4 council vote in 1997, was never enforced; it was immediately challenged in U.S. District Court here by unsuccessful GOP council candidate John Kruse.

        Mr. Kruse won his case at every step of the legal process. The city, backed by campaign finance reform groups around the country, lost for good when the U.S. Supreme Court refused in November 1998 to hear its appeal.

        The next year, City Council voted 5-4 to do away with the campaign contribution limits of $1,000 per individual, $2,500 from political action committees and $15,000 from political parties.

        In 1999, with the contribution limits off, council campaign spending hit a record of $2.5 million.

        Two Cincinnatians have made national reputations as prodigious political givers and fund-raisers — lawyer Stanley Chesley for the Democrats and financier Carl Lindner, who ordinarily supports Republicans but who has given substantial sums to Democrats as well.

        Mr. Chesley, one of the nation's most successful class action trial attorneys, is close to both President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore and has raised millions for Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

        In last year's Cincinnati City Council campaign, Mr. Lindner was by far the biggest contributor, giving $179,000 to eight candidates — seven of whom won election.

        So far in the 2000 federal election cycle, Mr. Lindner and members of his family have given $945,000 to various presidential and congressional candidates and political party committees, both Republican and Democrat.


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