Thursday, March 15, 2001

Candidate donations out in open

Council closes loophole

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Candidates for Cincinnati City Council won't be able to keep contributions received in the last days of the election a secret this year.

        An ordinance approved by council Wednesday requires anyone running for office to report within 48 hours any donations that come in during the last 19 days of an election.

        It restores reporting requirements that were tossed out when council scrapped campaign contribution limits in 1998 and allowed candidates to wait until after the election ended to report some donations.

        “I am very pleased with the outcome,” said Councilman Pat DeWine, who introduced the ordinance and fought off several objections. “This says we are for full disclosure.”

        The new ordinance mirrors state and federal laws and requires candidates to report contributions 120 days and 60 days before an election. It also asks that finance reports be on the Internet within 72 hours of being filed.

        While several council members described the ordinance as ineffective and incomplete, only Councilman Chris Monzel voted against it.

        “Anybody should be able to run for City Council. We're telling them they have to get an (online) account,” he said, adding that candidates could subvert the ordinance by applying for a personal loan in the last days of an election and repaying it with donations afterward. “Just because it is federal law doesn't make it right.”

        Other council members said they opposed requiring donors to list their employers, which could have a chilling effect and scare people from making donations.

        Mr. DeWine dismissed the argument, saying any employer could still obtain the names of contributors by simply requesting the list of donations. He also sneered at suggestions that the new requirements would make paperwork harder for candidates.

        If it is too hard, he said, maybe someone should think twice before running for council.

        “I'm a little embarrassed today,” he said. “Why don't we worry about the people who cast a vote instead of whether it will be a little more difficult to fill out a form?”

        Councilwoman Alicia Reece, who first challenged the motion because of the employer requirements, said Wednesday she did not think the new ordinance went far enough.

        “I don't think we're prepared to deal with real campaign reform,” she said, adding that issues of spending are being neglected.

        The real problem with finances, she said, are with candidates who raise upward of $500,000 for a two-year council seat that pays about $50,000 annually.

        Councilman John Cranley disagreed, saying the ordinance goes a long way to showing that incumbents have nothing to hide.

        “It is the height of good government,” he said. “There is no good reason to be against it.”


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