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Columbus Fair Campaigns Code

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    Petition Presented at City Hall Supporting Campaign Finance Reform

    Published on November 7, 2013 1:45 pm

    By: Walker

    The Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government is taking to City Hall this afternoon to present approximately 23,000 signatures that support a petition to overhaul campaign finance reform laws for local elections.

    READ MORE: http://www.columbusunderground.com/petition-presented-at-city-hall-supporting-campaign-finance-reform



    November 11, 2013

    (Columbus, OH) The Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government (“the Coalition”) has completed an analysis of campaign contributions in the 2013 City Council elections.

    Reviewing Campaign Finance reports submitted to the Franklin County Board of Elections (Pre-Primary through 5-Day prior to General Election reports), the Coalition found that Friends for Ginther, the campaign fund for Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther, contributed 70% of the campaign dollars in the 2013 election cycle, though Ginther was not a candidate for election.

    The incumbent council members (Priscilla Tyson, A. Troy Miller, and Eileen Paley) raised $375,265.63 – of which $ 274,190.64 was contributed by Friends for Ginther. The Ginther PAC contributed 62% of Paley’s campaign, 72% of Tyson’s campaign, and a full 90% of Miller’s campaign.

    In contrast, the three council challengers (Nicholas Schneider, Brian Bainbridge, and Greg Lawson) raised just $16,578.46 for the entire election cycle (primary and general elections), which represented just 4% of all campaign funds raised.

    These findings validate our longstanding concerns about the impact of money in local political life and policy. In this election you had every incumbent council candidate in support of a proposal sponsored by the Council President that 69% of the voters rejected. We are increasingly not finding representation of the people on Council.

    On Veteran’s Day we recognize that our fellow citizens fought, were maimed and died to protect the Constitution of the United States of America. Chief among our constitutional promises is our franchise – the right of Americans to vote on their governance. The Constitution has been amended on four occasions to expand voting and to ensure voting is a birthright; available to regardless of race, color, gender; and a right of adults ages 18-21. Previous generations have struggled – often against violent opposition – to ensure fairness in elections.

    Now our generation must struggle against apathy and the pernicious impact of money of elections to ensure those gains are not rendered irrelevant.

    Here in Columbus, we had a 4% voter turnout for our primary election, and less than 18% for the General Election. We have citywide elections where challengers cannot raise sufficient funds to deliver their messages to Columbus voters, and thus have little means to compete for office. We have a Council President that is providing the lion’s share of campaign contributions to elect incumbents.

    As a result, we have a government that has grown unaccountable to the citizenry. We seek to continue the work of generations toward perfecting our democracy, by introducing to Columbus that which other cities have had enacted for decades: meaningful campaign finance legislation. The Coalition has submitted approximately 23,000 signatures of Columbus residents seeking such reform, in a citizen-initiated ordinance.

    For More Information, contact Jonathan Beard at 614-395-1946.



    Jonathan C. Beard
    November 11, 2013

    Today on Veterans Day, we remember that our way of life – including our voting rights which are under attack in many states – have been secured by fellow citizens serving in our armed forces. Today our fight for our franchise is not a fight of physicality, but a fight against apathy and the appearance or reality of undue influence — both of which undermine our democracy.

    Too many people think their vote does not matter, and in many cases they are right. At the federal level, gerrymandering of congressional districts has left seats uncontestable, which leads to interparty dysfunction and an inability to govern. Further, corporate special interest group campaign contributions have undue influence on the public agenda.

    At the state level, gerrymandering has lead to single party control of state legislature despite an electorate that is evenly split between the two major parties.

    At the local level, we maintain At Large elections for City Council which increases costs of running for office, reducing competition. And we see each year – including this year — that even incumbent council members cannot afford their own elections.

    In this, the 2013 election cycle, Council incumbents raised $25 to every $1 raised by challengers. In gross numbers, incumbents raised over $375,000, and challengers raised just $16,000. And disturbingly, 70% of all the campaign funding was provided by one Political Action Committee: Friends for Ginther. Friends for Ginther accounted for 62% of funding of Paley Campaign, 72% of Tyson campaign, and 90% of the Miller campaign.

    When we look at those facts, we don’t see fair and competitive elections that Americans have fought for and Columbus residents should expect. $16,000 is not enough money for three candidates to run a competitive campaign across 225 square miles covering more than 800,000 people. Further, the excessive spending by the Council President gives a suspicion impropriety – a suspicion that votes on council can be influenced by campaign contributions from the council president. This suspicion appears validated when the Council president sponsored Issues 50 & 51 and where every council member agreed with it –even though 69% of the electorate voted it down. We have a problem of representation, and when you follow the money it causes concern. Sadly, this is the best that our current system gives us, so it is past time to look critically at our system of elections.

    Citizens of Columbus deserve fair and competitive elections, which is why the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government filed roughly 23,000 signatures in support of a proposed citizen-initiated ordinance — The Columbus Fair Campaigns Code — on Thursday.

    We modeled our proposed ordinance after Austin’s campaign finance law. In short, under the proposed law submitted by the people, candidates for Mayor and Member of Council can agree to limit their contributions and expenditures, and in exchange they get access to publicly provided campaign benefits such as debates sponsored by the Community Relations Commissions and aired on the two city-controlled public access stations, access to those same public access stations at nominal cost to explain in detail their campaign messages to the public, and access to a newly established Columbus Fair Campaigns Fund, which would provide partial public financing of campaigns so all candidates could get their messages out without having to spend money on 30-second TV or radio advertising to speak to all of Columbus.

    In the 2011 election cycle, council members Craig, Klein, Mills reported receiving over $108,000 each from Friends for Ginther. In this cycle, all council incumbent candidates received more than $84,000 each. The questions for voters are “what did that buy?, and does that give me confidence in the independence of my elected officials?”

    The Coalition would rather have the public support a system of elections where candidates can get more information about their candidacies to the public at a much lower cost, rather than have the council president supporting campaigns with 30-second ads saying incumbents support strong neighborhoods, police officers, and good jobs. The public deserves more from our most important right.

    In a few weeks you will have a chance to vote on the Columbus Fair Campaigns Code. We ask that you do something great for Columbus – this generation and the next – by voting “yes” and strengthening our democracy. We stand ready to answer any questions and provide any assistance in that regard.



    Redistricting Changes are Crucial, Husted Says

    Free Press: Does Money Buy Public Policy in Columbus?

    Two recent articles focus on the fairness of our elections (local and state) — real or perceived. Question …

    Is it problematic for the Council President to have contributed 73% of the council incumbents campaign funds for re-election (2013 elections – despite not being on the ballot personally) and 81% of the council incumbents campaign funds in 2011? If so, why? If not, why not?

    Listen in to Ann Fisher’s All Sides Considered (89.7 FM) on Monday at 10:00, when she leads a panel questioning “Is Single Party Rule Destroying Columbus?”



    Dollarocracy … Is Money and Media Destroying our Democracy? (Seattle event)[/url]

    U.S. elections never have been perfect, say John Nichols and Robert McChesney, but after the record-setting $10 billion 2012 campaign, we’re now hurtling toward a point where the electoral process itself ceases to function as a means for citizens to control leaders and guide government policies—goodbye democracy; hello “dollarocracy.” Media experts Nichols and McChesney, authors of Dollarocracy, examine the “money-and-media election complex” they say has sapped elections of their meaning: the pay-to-play billionaires (and the politicians who do their bidding), the corporations freed to buy elections (and the activist judges who advance their agenda), and the media conglomerates that blow off journalism while raking in billions airing political advertising. This complex doesn’t just endanger electoral politics, they say; it poses a challenge to the DNA of American democracy itself.

    What can we do to guard against this in Columbus?



    November 18, 2013 — 10:00 am
    It’s My Party: Urban Political Dominance

    In the recent electoral past, the US has seen traditionally red states go blue, and vice versa, but when it comes to local politics, cities have a hard time shaking one-party dominance. Ohio’s capital city is a prime example. This hour we’ll examine the benefits of a true two-party system, and discuss whether such a thing is even possible on a local level.

    READ MORE: http://wosu.org/2012/allsides/its-my-party-urban-political-dominance/



    Last night (November 18, 2013), Columbus City Council had its first reading of legislation proposed by a citizen initiative: The Columbus Fair Campaigns Code.

    Under the City Charter, citizens can propose city ordinances by securing signatures of 5% of the City’s electorate in support of a proposed law. Yesterday, the Franklin County Board of Elections certified the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government’s 9,284 valid signatures — far more than the approximately 4,800 signatures needed to move the initiative forward.

    The Coalition sponsored this proposed law because we believe Columbus residents deserve fair and competitive elections, and because such elections have been absent in recent years. In 2011, incumbent council members outspent challengers by $758,000 to $275,000. In 2013, incumbents outspent challengers $375,000 to $17,000.

    Over both election cycles (combined), City Council President Andrew Ginther provided 78% of all the money spent by council’s incumbents, as he contributed more than 50% of the costs of all seven council campaigns: 57% of the Klein campaign, 62% of the Paley campaign, 72% of the Mills campaign, 72% of the Tyson campaign, 84% of the Craig campaign, 90% of the Miller campaign, and 100% of his campaign.

    The coalition believes that council members — particularly incumbents — should be able to finance their own campaigns and that such heavy financial reliance on the council president undermines confidence in the independence of our elected officials and gives at least an appearance of the potential for undue influence.

    Also, without turning this into a commentary on the qualifications or fundraising capacity of any candidates or the reasons why fundraising is so difficult for challengers, it is clear that the $17,000 raised by challengers is not enough money to run a meaningful campaign across 225 square miles and 800,000 people. But this is the best our local system of elections could accomplish.

    We believe if this is the best our system provides, then we need to change our system because the people of Columbus deserve fair and competitive elections — not cakewalks that can never provide accountability.

    The Columbus Fair Campaigns Code is designed to address some of these issues where our elections have become imbalanced, to the detriment of the ability of the people to have meaningful control over our governance. There are some voluntary (opt-in) provisions, and some mandatory provisions governing campaign funds. We borrowed the major concepts in our proposed law from the law in place in Austin, Texas.

    To read the legislation on Council’s website: Link to City Council Fair Campaigns Legislation

    To learn more about the proposed ordinance in more user-friendly summary, see our (Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government) website at: Quick Summary of Columbus Fair Campaigns Code

    We expect that Council will vote on the citizen-initiated ordinance at the December 2nd meeting. We urge people in support of fair campaigns to contact council and let them know of your encouragement for them to vote for this legislation and the more fair and competitive elections it would support. If at least 4 council members vote “yes,” the proposal becomes law. If a majority vote “no,” it will go on the ballot for a vote.

    In closing I would note that in 1994, 63% of Columbus electors voted in favor of a charter amendment to allow this type of campaign finance law; however, no council since then ever enacted such a law. The people voted two decades ago on the need for a law, and this proposed law addresses the issues of our day and can be enacted with a simple majority vote of Council. We hope for Council’s support.



    Columbus Voters Likely to See Campaign Finance Issue

    A group seeking to reduce Democrats’ power in Columbus politics appears to have gathered enough signatures to put a campaign-finance-reform initiative before voters next year.

    The Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government wants voters to approve public financing for Columbus City Council and mayoral candidates who agree to limits on their campaign spending … (read more at link)

    Dispatch: Columbus Voters Likely to See Campaign Finance Issue


    Joe Sommer

    It’s ridiculous that The Dispatch is describing the proposed campaign-finance reform for Columbus city elections as an effort “to reduce Democrats’ power in Columbus.” The effort should be described instead as a means of having local elections work in the way the Founders of the U.S. intended.

    In his 2007 book The Assault on Reason, Al Gore wrote: “Faith in the power of reason -the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power – was and remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.”

    There is no way that the public can have “logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available” when incumbent officeholers – of whatever party – can raise huge amounts of campaign contributions, while their opponents can raise only a small fraction of that amount. The result is that the vast majority of citizens hear only the views of the incumbents, and little or nothing from the challengers. The elections are therefore decided not by the merits of the arguments made by the candidates but instead by the raw power to raise campaign donations.

    As Gore also states in his book, that situation is unfair, is inconsistent with the way America was intended to operate, and is leading to uninformed and poor decision-making regarding issues of governance. It’s a problem that all persons should be concerned about, regardless of political affiliation. And that’s a reason that at last year’s National Democratic Convention, the delegates voted to include support for campaingn-finance reform in the Party’s platform.




    In 1994 voters approved a charter amendment to allow campaign finance reform, but a comprehensive law was never passed by Council. However, under our City Charter, citizens can join together to propose laws, and the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government last week submitted more than 23,000 signatures of Columbus citizens in support of a citizen-initiated law/ordinance: The Columbus Fair Campaigns Code.

    The goal of this citizen-initiated law is to provide more and better information about candidates and issues to Columbus voters at a lower cost. Our proposed law – The Columbus Fair Campaigns Code — is designed to ensure all candidates are able to get their messages to the electorate, so Columbus has a true marketplace of ideas and fair and competitive elections. Our law was designed to hold the people’s interests primary: as we see at all levels of government the politicians have no interest in competition, seeking to create “safe” seats and noncompetitive elections – and our analysis has shown that money is used to create “safe” seats in our local elections –

    Columbus residents deserve fair and competitive elections – but our elections have been getting less fair and are non-competitive. In 2009, one challenger lost by 1,100 votes; in 2011, the vote margin was 1.5: 1 in favor of incumbents; and in 2013, the vote margin was 2: 1 in favor of incumbents. Our elections are noncompetitive and getting more so, and they are simply unwinnable by non-incumbents which is not a good thing when government is supposed to be accountable and responsive to the people.

    The Coalition has proposed a campaign finance reform law drawn from the law used in Austin, Texas, and has submitted sufficient signatures of Columbus electors. Thus, on December 2nd Council will vote on Ordinance 2798-2013, The Columbus Fair Campaigns Code. If the Council votes “yes,” the citizens’ proposal will become law. If the Council votes “no”; the citizens’ initiative goes on the May 2014 ballot and voters will decide. The Coalition would like City Council to vote “yes” to support fair and competitive elections.

    Action Step
    Please help us by making contact with Columbus City Council to let Council know that you:
    • support fair and competitive elections in Columbus
    • have concerns about the existing election system
    • support The Columbus Fair Campaigns Code
    • want them to vote “yes” on December 2nd

    Main Switchboard: 645-7311

    Andrew Ginther (ajg[email protected]; Phone: 645-2931; Eileen Paley ([email protected]; 645-2010); Zach Klein ([email protected]; 645-5346); Michelle Mills ([email protected]; 645-7399)
    Herschel Craig ([email protected]; 645-7379), A. Troy Miller ([email protected]; 645-2013); Priscilla Tyson ([email protected]; 645-2933)

    Thank you for your support. Our full proposal is available at http://www.columbuscoalition.info.

    –Jon Beard (395-1946)



    Campaign Finance Reform Proposal
    December 2, 2013
    Mandie Trimble
    89.7 NPR News Reporter

    Columbus City Council is expected to take up campaign finance reform, tonight. A local group, which has proposed the initiative, said it wants more balance on the all-Democrat city hall board. But as WOSU reports, one expert said the proposal does not go far enough.

    READ MORE: http://wosu.org/2012/news/2013/12/02/city-council-to-vote-on-campaign-finance-reform-proposal/



    “The City Council has refused to adopt a proposed ordinance that would limit campaign spending and use casino tax revenue to fund city council and mayoral campaigns.

    Now, voters might decide.

    Council members unanimously rejected the ordinance yesterday. It had been proposed by the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government.

    The issue could go on the May ballot, but city officials said the proposal has “significant issues” and needs to be approved by the Franklin County Board of Elections before it’s put before voters … Council Rejects Tax Paid Campaigns (Dispatch article)

    Certainly not unexpected. Politicians are about the only ones in American life who don’t think a little competition is good …



    On February 3rd, the Franklin County Board of Elections sustained parts of a protest to the proposed Columbus Fair Campaigns Code citizen-initiated ordinance. Such ordinances are authorized by the Columbus City Charter, and require petition signatures from 5% of the Columbus electorate. The Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government submitted 17,000 signatures, with more than 3,000 more valid signatures than required by the Charter, and when Council declined to enact the law it went to the Board of Elections to certify for the ballot.

    However, Brian Rosenberg, a Columbus elector, filed a protest arguing that some technical provisions in Ohio election law had not been met, and while the Board rejected much of the protest, it sustained some and rejected it from the ballot.

    The Coalition recognizes the same issues still exist, and is fixing the minor petitioning flaws and will be circulating new petitions with the goal of having this on the November ballot.

    The Coalition is accepting public comment through February 28th, and will then finalize the ordinance language and begin circulating petitions for signature. You can view the draft language at, and comment using the instructions on that web page: Draft of Columbus Fair Campaigns Code



    Coalition Submits Petition for Campaign Finance Reform
    July 16, 2014 7:50 am – Jesse Bethea

    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.

    READ MORE: http://www.columbusunderground.com/coalition-submits-petition-for-campaign-finance-reform-jb1

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