City Of Columbus Proposes Campaign Finance Reforms
Columbus officials announced a proposal to implement campaign contribution limits for the first time in city history.
Mayor Andrew Ginther said the city wants to cut down on dark money being used to influence elections, "by limiting annual contributions to municipal candidates by following the state law contribution amounts of $12,707.79.”
Anyone issuing ads in the run-up to an election would have to disclose the amount of contribution, expenditure and debt.
According to city officials, the changes would require more campaign finance disclosure than state law and the most disclosure of any major city in Ohio. The proposal would also create a system to report and investigate alleged violations of the new city code and require auditing of all campaign finance filings.
Columbus' limits would still be higher than other Ohio cities, according to the Columbus Dispatch. In Cleveland, contributions are capped at $5,000 per individual and $7,500 per PACs; in Cincinnati, they're capped at $1,100 for individuals and $2,700 for PACs.
Jonathan Beard has sponsored several ballot initiatives encouraging campaign finance reform in the city, most recently as treasurer of the group Everyday People for Positive Change.
“There’s nothing to reform the system, balance elections, make fair and competitive elections, reform the system, that’s what people want," Beard says. "People want fair and competitive elections."
He says the real issue is that Columbus City Council fills its vacancies through self-appointment, and that the proposed changes serve to protect council from dissent.
Beard attempted to pass campaign finance limits as part of a package of Council reforms, including expanding the number of members and creating ward-based elections. That measure was rejected by both the Council and the Ohio Supreme Court. In May, voters passed a measure to implement smaller reforms to the Council, which will continue electing members "at-large."
Officials will host a presentation and hear public feedback on the proposal Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. at City Council chambers.