Thursday, February 14, 2008

Local Campaign Finance Reform discussion comes back into focus

by Mark Rauterkus

Part 1 on Campaign Finance Reform

Hot Political Topic: Campaign Finance Reform

The issue of campaign finance reform is coming into focus again. Nationally, John McCain, R, helped to pen a bill that changed the rules and earn him plenty of scorn among the conservatives. In Pennsylvania, PA's top court recently gave the green light to changes for campaigns in Philly. In Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto of city council has re-tooled his suggestions. Even the media is getting in step, as the City Paper devoted this week's cover story to campaign finance reform. (

Local, recent HISTORY:

A few years ago, other campaign finance reform measures were introduced by Peduto for Pittsburgh. Some feeble effort unfolded in Allegheny County too. Back then, I helped to derail the city's legislation. Nothing was enacted. As citizens, we calling a public hearing, raised a ton of questions, and insured that the bills were tabled. A task force on campaign finance reform was organized. After some begging, I got included.

A conversation resumed through a diverse task force. We devoted a few months and dozens of meetings to cover the angles of Peduto's bill and the issue. A list of suggestions, a work product of the task force, never got any public review. Our discussions were suspended for the next few years, at the will of the bill's sponsor, until last week.

We're back.


As a city and region, if not nation, our political landscape is fragile. Citizens face corruption at every turn. Money goes to the root of the troubles. Campaigns are costly. Elections and influence hinge upon pay outs and pay offs. Issues and solutions take a back seat to electability and power struggles among those with massive amounts of cash from their own PACs (political action committees) and cronie PACs.

As a lover of liberty, I hate to see new solutions that restrict freedom and generally cause new sets of problems. Swiftboats came rushing out of past efforts to clean up elections. Campaign finance reforms are needed as the system is such a mess. But, elections and the democratic process can turn for the worse. We need to think it through.

If all of us are able to put on our thinking caps from time to time, we can avoid some future pitfalls. This is one of those times, locally, when it comes to campaigns in Pittsburgh. Let's not toss the baby out with the bathwater, like was done with the decision to get those electronic voting machines without a paper trail.


The first major flaw within the entire discussion of local campaign finance reform is focus. This is clear within the first mentions in the above mentioned article by Chris Potter in the City Paper. Every year, city gives out plenty of "No Bid Contracts." No bid contracts are, by design, an avoidance of competition. Sweetheart deals having nothing to do with Valentine's Day, flow outward from the public treasury all the time.

Politicians love to spread around governement work to certain businesses who choose to play in those quarters.

Of course, Pittsburgh has a big problem with "No Bid Contracts." But, fixing no bid contracts should have nothing to do with campaign finance reform.

They go hand in hand. Sure, those that get no-bid contracts are the same one's that make big campaign contributions. However, the fix comes with a total elimination of all no bid contracts. In the government sector, all the contracts should proceed through a sealed bid.

More problems will surface as campaign finance laws are written to fix no-bid contracts.


Campaigns for public office are public activities. Everyone should be able to witness every move. I want to know how candidates are raising and spending their money. Who gives, how much and when matter. Every transaction should be fully visible in real time. Those who want to know should be able to research daily updates from the internet with ease of real-time and online banking simplicity.

Trust funds and online banking systems can allow for open access to witness deposit and expense transactions.

I'd love to chart new ground with the formation of TRANSPARENT PAC ACCOUNTS. PACs are the political action committees. Those PAC bank accounts can be put into a new class of banking product so the general public can witness deposits and expenses.

Enterprise Bank, expect my call. Let's make a best-practices product and model what could and should be done for greatly increased observations on the campaign process of candidates.

Postings in this series:

Part 1: Local Campaign Finance Reform

Part 2: Making an ethical stand.

Part 3: Proposal to Bankers for a Campaign Marriage, with drive-through guests

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