Monday, April 07, 2008

Campaign Finance Reform gets attention in post agenda meeting in city council chambers

Bill Peduto's long awaited campaign finance reform bill took another step today with a post agenda meeting in city council chambers. It was put onto the city cable.

Bill Peduto said he'd put a 'hold' on the bill if he had the necessary support to offer a 'clean money' alternative. That's code for public financed campaigns.


I'm not sure where this is going to go.

Pointers from the MSM expected shortly.

Trib news:

Proposal sets limits on political donations in Pittsburgh
By Jeremy Boren
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

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Pittsburgh isn't among more than two dozen major U.S. cities that cap the amount a person can donate to candidates at $5,000 or less.

The city has no limit on individual campaign contributions to City Council and mayoral candidates -- but it should, said Councilman Bill Peduto, who portrayed himself as a case in point during a hearing Monday on campaign finance restrictions he has proposed to city lawmakers.

"When I ran for mayor last year, I received a donation for $50,000. The most presidential candidates can receive is $2,300," Peduto said. "For a City Council member running for mayor, the sky's the limit. There's something inherently wrong with that."'

Peduto wants to limit annual, individual donations to City Council members to $2,500; mayoral and city controller candidates would be capped at $5,000.

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Limits in other cities range from as high as $3,400 on council members and the mayor in Detroit to as little as $270 on council members and $200 on the mayor in San Diego.

Under Peduto's proposal, those who donate the maximum would be prohibited from receiving no-bid contracts from the city. Candidates would be prohibited from raising more than $250,0000 (mayor), $100,000 (city controller) or $75,000 (council members) in non-election years.

Tim Potts, co-founder of Democracy Rising PA, attended Peduto's hearing to emphasize that unchecked campaign fundraising inhibits democracy.

"You don't want someone going in with a huge war chest that makes it nearly impossible for anybody else to compete," Potts said of non-election-year fundraising.

Potts said state lawmakers, for example, spend an inordinate amount of time fundraising. Forcing politicians to stick to smaller goals could reduce time they spend not doing their jobs.

Councilman Jim Motznik said fundraising doesn't stop him from listening to constituents.

"The amount of time I spend with my people and residents who aren't in my district ... doesn't depend on whether they gave me money," he said.

Peduto's legislation doesn't specify penalties for those who don't follow the caps. It leaves that to the city's Ethics Hearing Board.

Peduto said he's willing to negotiate to lower or nix the off-year election limits and amend the legislation to lower the individual contribution caps to $1,000 for council and $2,500 for the mayor and controller.

Even those changes would help Pittsburgh shake off the yoke of pay-to-play politics, said Barry Kauffman, director of Pennsylvania Common Cause, who attended the hearing.

Only 11 states, including Pennsylvania, do not have some form of statewide campaign finance reform, Kauffman said.

Finding the five votes on the nine-member City Council could be difficult.

Peduto doesn't have the votes yet, said Council President Doug Shields.

"As the old saying goes, 'When you've got the votes, vote; when you don't, talk.' Right now, we're talking."

Jeremy Boren can be reached at or 412-765-2312.

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