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(Note: Section IV, subsection "A" was revised on Oct. 15th, 2003. Previously, no monetary guidelines pertaining to the values of the public benefits set forth herein were included. This was updated to better withstand any court challenges should this become law.)
Table Of Contents
Motion to enact a Campaign Finance and Taxpayer Protection city ordinance for the city of Columbus, Ohio*
Section I. Designation: *
Section II. Findings and Declarations: *
Section III. This ordinance will set forth the following provisions: *
Section IV. Definitions *
Section V. City Public Official Shall Not Receive Personal or Campaign Advantage From Those To Whom They Allocate Public Benefits *
Section VI. Campaign Finance- Limits on Contributions *
Section VII. Additional Reporting of Contributions and Expenditures *
Section VIII) Penalties *
Section IX. Columbus Elections Commission *
Section X Addendum to the report: *
Section XI. Severability *
Motion to enact a Campaign Finance and Taxpayer Protection city ordinance for the city of Columbus, Ohio
Be it ordained by the council of the city of Columbus
Section I. Designation:
This shall be known as the Campaign Finance and Taxpayer Protection Ordinance of the City of Columbus, Ohio
Section II. Findings and Declarations:
A) The high cost of political campaigns forces many candidates to rely on funds from special interests, who then expect (and usually get) special treatment in the law. The special treatment can be in the form of tax abatements, "economic development subsidies," tax-increment financing, unbid contracts, etc. By passing laws to limit contributions to political campaigns, and by properly enforcing campaign finance laws, the present system of "pay-to-play" access to City government can be cleaned up over time.
B) Campaign finance reform has become a major tool in trying to establish a more accessible democracy for all the citizens. Any democracy that values freedom as an ideal should be accessible at the grassroots level. According to a two-part series entitled "Access at City Hall," which was printed in the December 9th and 10th, 2001 copies of the Columbus Dispatch, 4.2 million dollars in campaign contributions were accepted by two mayors and members of Columbus City Council between January of 1998 to the end of 2000. Of that amount, only 15 percent came from individual donations less than 500 dollars. Eighty-five percent came from those who gave 500 dollars or more. Most campaign contributions, the Dispatch articles said, came from people doing business with the city. These business entities include: Developers, zoning lawyers for the developers, and business interests such as engineering firms that receive unbid contracts from the city of Columbus. They also include various other entities or business interests that receive tax abatements, TIFS (tax-increment financing) or other "economic development subsidies." In at least 20 of the 48 tax abatements granted by the city of Columbus in 1998, 1999, and 2000, the company or developer involved in the project made campaign contributions. Since contributors are not required to list employers, it is possible that more than 20 of those recipients of tax abatements actually made contributions.
C) The signers of this motion represent various civic associations, activist organizations, churches, other community groups, and individuals. These signers find that the use or disposition of public assets are often tainted by conflicts of interest among local public officials entrusted with their management and control. Such assets should be strictly on the merits for the benefit of the public, and irrespective of the separate personal or financial interests of involved public officials. The signers find that public decisions made regarding the granting of tax abatements, TIFS, "economic development subsidies," and unbid contracts and business arrangements have often been made with the expectation of, and subsequent receipt of, private benefits from those so assisted to involved elected public officials. The signers further find that the sources of such corruptive influence include gifts and honoraria, future employment offers, and anticipated campaign contributions for public officials who are either elected or who later seek elective office. The trading of special favors or advantage in the management or disposal of public assets and in the making of major public decisions that are based or appear to be based on those favors compromises the political process, undermines confidence in democratic institutions, deprives meritorious prospective contractors of fair opportunity, and deprives the public of its rightful enjoyment and effective use of public assets.
D) Accordingly, the signers find that there is a compelling state interest in reducing the corruptive influence of campaign contributions on the decisions of public officials in the management of public assets and franchises, and in the disposition of public funds. The signers, who as taxpayers compensate public officials, expect and declare that as a condition of such public office, no gifts, promised employment, or campaign contributions shall be received from any substantial beneficiary of such a public decision for a reasonable period, as provided herein. "Compelling state interest" as stated means the governmental interests of the City of Columbus, and the citizens thereof.
E) Public officials, including a mayoral candidate who was elected to that position in 1999, have stated that campaign finance rules had to change, according to the Columbus Dispatch article. In 1995, a panel convened by a former member of Columbus City Council recommended nine changes, none of which has ever been enacted. This ordinance will include provisions of the aforementioned panel suggestions, with some revisions or clarifications, and additional reasonable reforms.
F) Campaign donation limits are standard at the state and federal level, but the city of Columbus has no limits.
G) City campaign finance reports are filed on paper and are kept on file at the Franklin County board of Elections. Both Ohio and the federal campaign finance reports are assessable on the internet.
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Section III. This ordinance will set forth the following provisions:
A) Limits on contributions to candidates in council or mayoral elections.
B) Additional reporting requirements for contributions to and expenditures by candidates.
C) Reporting requirements for independent expenditures.
D) Penalties for making or accepting contributions that exceed the limits and for failing to file a report.
E) Penalties for public officials who accepted employment or campaign contributions from people, corporations, or other entities that received public benefits in the form of tax abatements, tax-increment financing, "economic development subsidies," or unbid contracts.
F) Penalties for public officials who accepted gifts or honoraria in excess of $100.00 from people, corporations, or other entities that received public benefits in the form of tax abatements, tax-increment financing, "economic development subsidies," or unbid contracts.
G) Creation of the Columbus Elections Commission to administer the law as described herein.
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Section IV. Definitions
A) As used herein, the term public benefit does not include public employment in the normal course of business for services rendered. The term public benefit includes any tax abatement, tax increment financing, or “economic development subsidy” with the city of Columbus granted to any individual, corporation, firm, partnership, association, or other person or entity in excess of $5,000 in any 12 month period. The term Public Benefit shall include any unbid contract awarded to any individual, corporation, firm, partnership, association, or other person or entity to conduct any business activity in a territory in which no other competitor potentially is available to provide similar and competitive services, and for which gross revenue from the business activity exceeds $50,000 in any 12 month period.
B) Those persons or entities receiving public benefits as defined in subsection (A) shall include any individual or person who, during a period where such benefit is received or accrues,
1) has more than a ten percent (10%) equity, participation, or revenue interest in that entity, or
2) Who is a trustee, director, partner, or officer of that entity.
C) As used herein, the term personal or campaign advantage shall include:
1) any gift, honoraria, emolument, or personal pecuniary benefit of a value in excess of $100.00.
2) any employment for compensation;
3) any campaign contributions for any elective office said official may pursue.
D) As used herein, the term public official includes any elected or appointed public official acting in an official capacity.
E) "Commission" means the Columbus elections commission;
F) "Candidate" includes a candidate’s campaign committee;
G) "Report" includes a statement or other document;
H) "Mayoral election" includes a primary election or general election for the selection of candidates for mayor. "Council election" includes a primary election or general election for the selection of candidates for city council.
I) "Political party" means an organization (a) whose candidate received a number of votes equal to at least five percent of the number of persons voting for candidates for council in the last election for that office, or (b) is recognized as a political party for any purpose by a federal court.
J) "Person" as used in this Article means the same as the definition of "person" in Section 3517.01(B) (17)(a) of the Ohio Revised Code.
K) Unless otherwise defined in this motion for an ordinance, a word used in this ordinance has the same meaning as in Section 3517.01 of the Ohio Revised Code.
L) As used herein, the term "motion," shall mean "ordinance," the legal term required by Charter of Columbus, Ohio, if passed into law.
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Section V. City Public Official Shall Not Receive Personal or Campaign Advantage From Those To Whom They Allocate Public Benefits
A) No city public official who has exercised discretion to approve and who has approved or voted to approve a public benefit as described in Section IV, subsection (A) may receive a personal or campaign advantage from a person, corporation, or other entity that received the public benefit. This shall be for a period beginning on the date the official approves or votes to approve the public benefit, and ending no later than:
1) one year after the expiration of the term of office that the official is serving at the time the official approves or votes to approve the public benefit;
2) one year after the official’s departure from his or her office whether or not there is a pre-established term of office; or
3) five years from the date the official approves or votes to approve the public benefit; whichever is first.
B) This shall also apply to the exercise of discretion of any such public official serving in his or her official capacity through a redevelopment agency, or any other public agency, whether within or without the territorial jurisdiction of the City either as a representative or appointee of the City.
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Section VI. Campaign Finance- Limits on Contributions
A) In the period between successive elections of members of city council, a person may contribute not more than $1,000 to any one candidate for council, except that a political action committee may contribute not more than $2,500, and a political party or legislative campaign fund may contribute not more than $10,000.
B) In the period from an election of a mayor through the next primary for the selection of candidates for mayor, a person may contribute not more than $1,000 to any one candidate for mayor, except that a political action committee may contribute not more than $2,500, and a political party or legislative campaign fund may contribute not more than $10,000.
C) In the period from the day after the primary for the selection of candidates for mayor through November 30 of that year, identical limitations as in subsection (B) apply to contributions to any one candidate for mayor in the primary or general election for mayor.
D) In the period from the day after the primary for the selection of candidates for members of city council through November 30 of that year, identical limitations as in subsection (A) apply to contributions to any one candidate for council in the primary or general election for council.
E) A candidate in a council or mayoral election may not solicit or accept a contribution
1) proscribed by this section or
2) from the campaign fund of:
a) another candidate in a council or mayoral election,
b) a council member, or
c) the mayor.
1) The limit set forth in this section on contributions by a political action committee applies to the combined contributions of all the political action committees established, financed, maintained, or controlled by the same corporation, organization, labor union, continuing association, or other person, including a subsidiary, division, or department thereof.
2) A limit on contributions by a political party applies to the combined contributions of national, state, and local organizations of the same party.
G) The limitations in this section do not apply to:
1) An unexpended permissible contribution raised in one period and carried over to the next, or
2) The personal contributions of a candidate or the candidate’s spouse.
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Section VII. Additional Reporting of Contributions and Expenditures
A) In addition to other reports required to be filed under state law, by 4 p.m. of the sixtieth day before a council or mayoral election, a candidate, political action committee, legislative campaign fund, or political party that made or received a contribution or expenditure supporting the candidate shall file with the commission and the Franklin County Board of Elections a report of the contribution or expenditure in the manner and form required by the commission.
B) During the 20-day period before a council or mayoral election, if a candidate in the election receives a contribution that causes the total contributions from the contributor to exceed $500, within 5 days the candidate shall file a report of the contribution with the commission and the Franklin County Board of Elections.
C) A person required by state law or this section to file a report concerning a mayoral or council election shall also:
1) Simultaneously file a copy of the report with the commission and the Franklin County Board of Elections, and
2) Include with the report the name, residence address and employer or, if self-employed, the occupation of a person contributing more than $200 in the reporting period.
D) Reporting of independent expenditures:
1)Within 10 days of making independent expenditures totaling more than $1,000 in a period specified in section VI (A) (B) (C) or (D) the person making the expenditures shall file a report of the expenditures with the commission and the Franklin County Board of Elections in the manner and form required by the commission. If a portion of the expenditures is made within 30 days of the election, the person shall file the report within 3 days, and if made within 7 days of the election the person shall file the report within 48 hours.
2) If a person makes independent expenditures totaling more than $3,000 and accepts a contribution to the expenditures over $200, the person shall include in the report of the expenditures the name, residence address and employer or, if self-employed, the occupation of the contributor.
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Section VIII) Penalties
A) Contribution. The penalty for making, soliciting, or accepting a contribution that exceeds the maximum permitted by Section VI is a civil fine equal to twice the excess contribution.
B) Reporting. The penalty for failure to file a report required by Section VII is a civil fine for each week of violation in a council election, $100, and in a mayoral election, $200.
C) A penalty under subsection (B) does not apply if an addendum supplying the required information is filed within the time established in Section X, subsections (A) and (B).
D) Any knowing and willful violations of the provisions of Section V by a public official constitutes a criminal misdemeanor offense if it is an offer of employment and a civil offense otherwise, in addition to any violations under Ohio Revised code.
E) A civil action may be brought under this ordinance against a public official who receives a personal or campaign advantage in violation of Section V. A finding of liability shall subject the public official to the following civil remedies:
(1) Restitution of the personal or campaign advantage received, which shall accrue to the general fund of the City;
(2) A civil penalty of up to five times the value of the personal or campaign advantage received;
(3) Injunctive relief necessary to prevent present and future violations of this ordinance;
(4) Disqualification from future public office or position within the jurisdiction, if violations are willful, egregious, or repeated.
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Section IX. Columbus Elections Commission
A) The commission shall administer and enforce this Article.
1) Number: The commission consists of at least five members to include:
a) one member affiliated with each political party with which one or more council members or the mayor is affiliated, and
b) the minimum number of members not affiliated with a political party necessary to have five members or an uneven number, but not fewer than one.
C) Nomination and appointment
1) Party affiliated member: Within 30 days of the occurrence of a vacancy in a party affiliated position on the commission, the local executive committee of the same political party with which the former commission member was affiliated shall submit to the mayor the names of three individuals affiliated with that party. Within 15 days of receiving the names, the mayor shall appoint one of the nominees. If the party committee fails to submit three names within the required time, the mayor shall appoint an individual affiliated with that party.
2) Non-party affiliated member: Within 15 days of the occurrence of a vacancy in a non-party affiliated position on the commission, the mayor shall appoint a person not affiliated with a political party to fill the vacancy.
D) Terms: A commission member:
1) Serves a three-year term;
2) If appointed to fill an unexpired term, serves until the expiration of the predecessor’s term;
3) May not serve more than two consecutive terms.
E) Qualifications and prohibitions: A commission member must be a resident registered to vote in the city of Columbus but may not:
1) Hold or be a candidate for political office;
2) Be an officer of a political party;
3) Be a legislative agent or lobbyist as defined in the Columbus Municipal Code;
4) Be in the unclassified service under Ohio civil service law or an individual or employee described in Ohio Revised Code section 4117.01( C )( 1) through (12); and
5) As to a Columbus municipal election,
a) Make or solicit a contribution supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot question or issue, or
b) Serve on a committee of a political party, political action committee, or contributing entity.
F) Organization and staff
1) The commission shall:
a) Elect from its members a chairperson and a vice-chairperson, both of whom may not be affiliated with the same political party, to serve a one-year term. The chairperson may not have served more than one previous term as chairperson;
b) Adopt rules of procedure;
c) Meet on the call of the chairperson or the written request of a majority of members;
d) Act only with the concurrence of a majority of members; and
e) Appoint staff necessary to carry out its duties in accordance with city civil service rules
2) The commission may request the city solicitor to employ counsel to assist it in carrying out its duties.
G) Duties of the commission: The commission shall adopt rules to administer and enforce this ordinance including provisions for:
1) The filing of reports by electronic means, and other means it considers appropriate;
2) Review and investigation of
a) A report filed with it for compliance with this ordinance, and
b) A sworn complaint based on personal knowledge alleging a violation of this ordinance;
c) making a preliminary determination that a report filed with it is complete and accurate;
d) immediate notice to a person alleged to have violated this ordinance;
e) holding a hearing that meets due process requirements within 30 days of receipt of the notice of the alleged violation; and
f) sending to the alleged violator and the complainant within 30 days of the end of the hearing a written decision on the alleged violation.
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Section X Addendum to the report:
A) If the commission makes a preliminary determination that a report filed with it is incomplete or inaccurate, it shall conditionally accept the report and by certified mail notify the filer of the deficiency.
B) Within 7 days of receipt of the notice, the filer may submit an addendum to correct the deficiency. The commission may grant an extension to file the addendum. If the filer fails to submit an acceptable addendum, the commission shall conduct further proceedings in accordance with Section IX, subsection (G).
C) Finding of violation: After finding of a violation of this ordinance, the commission may impose a civil fine or other penalty authorized by this ordinance. The commission shall refer to the appropriate city agency collection of a civil fine the commission imposes, recovery of excess payments to a candidate, or enforcement of another penalty the commission imposes.
D) Additional powers and duties of the commission:
1) The commission may:
a) Apply to council to issue and compel compliance with a subpoena ordering attendance of a witness or production of a document, and to administer oaths; or
b) Render an advisory opinion. A person who reasonably relies on a commission advisory opinion is not liable for a violation of this ordinance.
2) Every four years, the commission shall adjust the contribution limits in Section VI by the same percentage as the periodic adjustments to the cost of living index as ascertained by the federal government, rounded off to the nearest one hundred dollars.
3) Periodically, the commission shall file timely reports on the operation of this, including one comprehensive report each election cycle within six months of an election.
Section XI. Severability
If any provision of this ordinance is held invalid, such invalidity or unconstitutionality shall not affect other provisions or applications which can be given effect without the invalidated provision, and to this end the provisions of this ordinance are severable.
A) To implement Section IX (B) (1) so that in so far as possible the terms of one third of the members of the commission expire each year, the mayor in appointing the initial members of the commission shall designate one third of the appointees to serve initial terms of one year, one third two years, and one third or the remaining appointees three years, plus whatever additional period is necessary for the terms of subsequent appointees to begin on December 1 of the year in which appointed. Thereafter each appointee serves a three-year term as provided in Section IX of the Ordinance.
B) The nomination and appointment time periods in Section IX (C) begin to run 30 days after the approval of the Ordinance by the voters.
C) This Ordinance applies to the first council and mayoral elections held after the approval of the Ordinance by the voters except that:
1) The limitations on contributions in the Ordinance do not apply to contributions made prior to the approval of the Ordinance.
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