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Coalition Submits Petition for Campaign Finance Reform

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Coalition Submits Petition for Campaign Finance Reform
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The Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government submitted a petition Tuesday afternoon calling for campaign finance reform in mayoral and city council elections. According to a press release sent out by the Coalition, 16,205 people signed the proposal, which is designed to create fairer and more competitive local elections through the creation of a Fair Campaigns Fund.

Jon Beard, President and CEO of the Columbus Compact Corporation and a spokesman for the Coalition, said this petition was born out of what the group sees as a disconnect between the city government and the people it serves. In particular, Beard cites the recent failures of the school and zoo levies, measures the city council favored but which voters widely rejected.

“I think everybody is so disillusioned and nobody cares anymore,” said Beard. “In a democracy we can’t have a situation where nobody cares.”

In order to remedy that situation, the Coalition has proposed a Columbus Fair Campaigns Fund; a pool of public money generated by casino tax revenue granted to the city every year by the state and which could be distributed among qualified candidates for local office. Under the proposed system, mayoral candidates who limit campaign spending to $500,000 and council candidates who limit spending to $100,000 would have access to this fund.

With this public fund, the Coalition seeks to alleviate campaign finance challenges that incumbents and challengers face in city elections. In the Coalition’s view, challengers generally do not have the funds to promote their campaign messages, while city council incumbents in recent elections have had what the Coalition’s press release calls an “over-reliance” on funds provided by the PAC of Council President Andrew Ginther.

The proposal also requires that candidates financed by the Fair Campaigns Fund must participate in at least four public debates aired on government controlled television stations. The Coalition believes these debates would provide voters with a more substantive understanding of issues and candidates.

“We’re tired of 30 second campaign ads,” said Beard.

This is not the first time the Coalition has submitted a petition calling for campaign finance reform. Beard said this petition is an update of a similar proposal submitted in 2013. Council voted down that proposal and it was sent to the Board of Elections for ballot certification, but was ultimately thrown out due to irregularities in the petition form.

This time around, the Coalition made certain that the forms were absolutely correct, but Beard still does not expect city council to vote in favor of the proposal. Instead, he expects the petition to be sent once again to the Board of Elections, this time with more success.

“I believe we will be on the upcoming ballot,” said Beard.

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