Sunday, February 11, 2001

Politics


Disclosure suggestion spurs fight

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        Pat DeWine, the freshman Republican member of Cincinnati City Council, made what he thought was a simple request last week.

        He asked council to restore the extra campaign finance reporting that was eliminated three years ago when council did away with the campaign contribution limits in place for the 1997 council election.

        Instead of going from January to mid-October in a council election year without giving voters a clue about who was financing their council campaigns, Mr. DeWine suggested an additional reporting date 120 days before the election.

        Mr. DeWine also suggested that council candidates be required to discloses within 48 hours contributions in the last 19 days before the election and that they play by the same rules that apply to state and federal candidates, who must list donors' occupations or employers.

Howling ensues

        From the howling that ensued, you would have thought that Mr. DeWine had asked them to auction off their children on eBay.

        Well, not all. Two council members — Democrat John Cranley and Charterite Jim Tarbell — said they'd agree to Mr. DeWine's idea without reservation.

        Republican Charles Winburn — who is leaving council soon and won't have much to say about it — nonetheless rattled on about how money is good, money is not “filthy.”

        “I like big money,” Mr. Winburn said.

        As well he should, since he has gotten so much of it over his four council campaigns. Since 1993, Mr. Winburn has spent more than $1.1 million, or an average of $280,449 every two years. He has been bested in the fund-raising department only by his Republican colleague, Phil Heimlich, who has spent more than $1.5 million to be elected four times.

        The rules Mr. DeWine proposed were in effect for the 1997 election before being scrapped.

        That year, Cincinnati financier Carl Lindner and 14 members of his family gave Mr. Winburn $15,000. More interesting was that Winburn campaign finance reports showed that 29 employees of Provident Bank — Mr. Lindner's bank — wrote checks of $125 each to Mr. Winburn's campaign.

        It could have been that 29 bank employees were simultaneously inspired to whip out their checkbooks and write checks for the exact same amount to the same candidate, but we doubt it.

Revealing reports

        And we learned about all of this because, in 1997, there were strict reporting requirements in place.

        The other council member who worked herself into a lather over Mr. DeWine's suggestion was Democrat Alicia Reece.

        Ms. Reece offered the opinion that if a person wanted to give her money but worked for a company where the big boss didn't support her, that worker might shy away from giving if that donor's place of employment were to be disclosed.

        Maybe there are such wienies in the world, but the councilwoman seems to think that cutting a check to her campaign is act of moral courage equal to lying down in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square.

        It is not.

        From the caterwauling going on in council Wednesday, it is clear Mr. DeWine is going to have a hard time getting five votes.

        The foxes, it seems, have the hen house in lockdown.

       Howard Wilkinson can be reached at 768-8388; e-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com.
       

       



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