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Government and Politics


New campaign finance rules proposed for Cuyahoga County
Committee wants new government to set donation limits and track lobbyists
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


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Kevin Niedermier
 
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announcing recommendations for improving campaign finance in the county. Behind him are some of the members of the committee that put the recommendations together.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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When Cuyahoga County's new charter government takes over next year, one of its tasks will be deciding on new campaign finance rules. A committee convened last spring by county Prosecutor Bill Mason to revamp the election system has released its recommendations. The proposals are to help restore confidence in a county government rocked by corruption...
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 An overview of the Campaign Finance Reform Committee's  recommendations for county elections changes from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office.


CLEVELAND- Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Campaign Finance Reform Committee announced four recommendations including the Clean Election Act. The recommendations pertain to lobbyist registry, electronic submission of campaign reports, campaign contribution limits, and the Clean Election Act which deals with voluntary public financing. The Committee also announced its questionnaire on these recommendations for County Council and County Executive candidates.

 

The Campaign Finance Reform Committee, chaired by Prosecutor Mason, convened in March 2010, to discuss campaign finance reform in Cuyahoga County. The Committee, comprised of 10 individuals, will be forwarding these recommendations to the new County Government that takes office January 1, 2011. The Candidate Questionnaire will be mailed to all candidates for County Council and Council Executive with a return deadline of August 16, 2010. The Committee will review the questionnaires and publish those returns. 

Prosecutor Mason, “The committee’s diligent work has provided a set of informed, thoughtful recommendations that will lead to a more open, clean county government. We urge the new County Government to consider adopting these recommendations.”

 

The four recommendations aim to bring transparency, fairness, and accountability to the election process of candidates for the positions of Cuyahoga County Council, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, and Cuyahoga County Executive. The details of each recommendation will be posted on the County’s website at http://charter.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/Campaign-Finance-Reform.aspx

 

 

1. To establish electronic filing of campaign finance reports in three phases.  First, the Board of Elections (BOE) shall require that all transaction details (donations, loans, expenditures) be provided in standard format spreadsheets. These spreadsheets shall be posted on the BOE website for analysis by interested parties. Second, the BOE shall provide the mechanism to import individual campaign spreadsheets into a single campaign finance database that is searchable on-line, across all election campaigns to be implemented by June 1, 2011. Thirdly, the BOE shall extend the functionality of an on-line campaign finance database that will include the following: on-line entry of individual transaction; import from Pay-Pal, in addition to the standard spreadsheet; automatic transaction summary calculations; additional fields and functionality that help both the BOE and campaigns reduce reporting costs; to be implemented by June 1, 2013.

 

2. To establish a lobbyist registry for Cuyahoga County.   Initial registration shall include the entity that the individual is lobbying for, or the name of his/her employer, type of business and contact information. A lobbyist shall file or report activities twice a year (4/15 and 10/15); identify and report contracting and legislative decisions or policies that they are attempting to influence; report any and all costs associated with food/beverage given to county officials (both elected officials and staff); prohibited from giving anything of value other than food or beverage to county public officials; report any campaign contributions that they make to county elected officials along with all other lobbying information they are required to provide. Lobbyist registration and filings shall be made available on-line so that this information is easily accessible to the public.

 

3. To establish campaign contribution limits.  Campaign contribution limits shall be established for candidates running for County-wide offices. Individual donors to candidates for County Council shall be limited to $750 per election cycle ($750/primary and $750 per general) and County offices (Executive and Prosecutor) shall be limited to $1,000 per election cycle ($1,000/primary and $1,000 per general). Donations from Political Action Committees (PACs), Political Contributing Entities (PCEs) and loans to committees to County Council and County offices shall limited similarly. Principals of businesses, law firms or organizations seeking or fulfilling a contract shall be limited to an aggregate of $2,000 per election cycle.

 

County candidate committees shall be prohibited from expending campaign funds on personal expenses. Candidates for County office shall be prohibited from accepting campaign contributions (both monetary and in-kind) from county employees. Campaign committees of county elected officials and employees of county officials’ campaign shall not accept campaign contributions from county employees. 

 

4. To establish the Clean Election Act.  The Clean Election Act aims to establish clean elections by setting forth an alternative, voluntary, campaign financing option to candidates for Cuyahoga County offices.  Candidates for Executive, Prosecutor, and Council may collect a limited amount of private funds (seed money) for the sole purpose of establishing a campaign to collect a certain number of small private donations (qualifying contributions) of $5 or more to demonstrate their validity. Candidates shall not accept any other private contributions from any other source, including themselves. Qualified candidates receive a certain amount of public funds to run their campaigns. If a publicly-funded candidate is competing against a privately-financed candidate and the privately-financed candidate raises funds in excess of the allotted funds, the publicly-funded candidate shall be eligible to receive a limited amount of additional public or private funds. Public funding for this system will come from several sources, including all seed money and qualifying contributions from participating candidates, donations, fines, filing fees and the County general fund.

 

To qualify, candidates shall file a declaration of intent with the Board of Elections to run as a Clean Election Candidate. Candidates for County Executive and Prosecutor shall raise at least twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000) from Cuyahoga County registered voters in no more than one hundred dollar ($100) and not less than five dollar ($5) increments. Candidates for County Council shall raise at least one thousand dollars ($1,000) from Cuyahoga County registered voters in no more than one hundred dollar ($100) and not less than five dollar ($5) increments.


Related Links & Resources
Cuyahoga County campaign reform website

 
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