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Efforts for Campaign Finance Transparency Long Overdue

With Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder charged with racketeering for participating in a pay-to-play dark money scheme to bailout to nuclear power plants for FirstEnergy, state politicians have been quick to denounce Ohio’s lack of campaign finance transparency. In a statement yesterday, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced House Bill 737, sponsored by Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park).

The goal of HB 737 is to make campaign contributions more transparent and more easily traced to their source. Some provisions include requiring ads to disclose their original source of money. This provision would have forced groups such as “Ohioans for Energy Security,” which advertised lies claiming that a petition to kill Householder’s bailout would result in a Chinese takeover of Ohio’s energy industry, to disclose that it was actually funded by FirstEnergy. It would also have required Householder’s PAC, Generation Now, to disclose its financial connections to FirstEnergy, which would trace back the money other candidates received from Householder.

Other key provisions include requiring campaigns to file reports more frequently and requiring them to report expenditures and donations directly to the Secretary of State’s office. The bill will also grant the Secretary of State greater subpoena power and allow him more power to impose fines or criminal penalties for noncompliance. You can read the full bill here, but keep in mind that it is still a working draft.

We at Reconstructing Dayton are happy to see a renewed focus on campaign finance transparency but it’s unfortunate that it took a major statewide scandal to bring attention to this issue. Some of the provisions, such as uncloaking the original sources of contributions, could be greatly beneficial to Ohio voters. However, we do believe that while corporate donors should not be granted anonymity, due to the threat of retaliation, individual donors should have the option to remain anonymous. We will comb through the text of the actual bill to see if this distinction is being made.

One major problem with the bill is that it still depends on campaigns and political organizations to self-report. While it improves our current opaque system that allows money to be funneled from one organization to the next, we have some suggestions that could greatly improve HB 737.

Reconstructing Dayton’s Recommendations

We believe a public service donation portal should be created and maintained by the Secretary of State that would take the donation process out of the hands of campaigns and political organizations. This would be open source (like CiviCRM) and rely on encrypted channels to allow donors to make their contributions directly to the portal, which would then disburse the funds to the campaign or political action committee. While small donations would still be allowed for fundraising events such as pancake breakfasts, if individual contributions exceed $100, then they need to be individually reported and submitted through the portal. This could all function in real time so no delay exists between a donation being granted and its public reporting . Individual donors would have to identify what sector they work in so that if a particular industry—such as energy or health care—is trying to buy a candidate this becomes obvious to law enforcement, journalists, and concerned citizens. We could see the number of donations and the amounts, so suspicious activity could be easily identified. Individual donors could still contribute to 501(c)4 organizations anonymously to protect them from retaliation, but corporate donors would have to disclose their identities.

There are several benefits to such a system. First, it would lead to greater transparency than HB 737 as it stands. It provides a key balance between the privacy rights of individual donors and the necessity to make corporate donations public. It would also help to prevent donors from being duped by scam PACs, which masquerade as political organizations but only exist to enrich their founders. Furthermore, it would eliminate costly barriers to get campaigns off the ground for non-traditional candidates. By circumventing other fundraising schemes that take a cut of donations, such as ActBlue, WinRed, or Anedot, a donor’s money actually goes where it’s intended. Building and maintaining such a system would cost less than a system of paperwork and investigations that merely functions as a game of corruption whack-a-mole. And, finally, local elections would be forced to file reports that are 100% ADA compliant, instead of the current hand filled out, scanned reports we now have via self-reporting.

As HB 737 still has a long way to go before becoming law, we encourage you to speak to your local representative and ask them to support measures that go beyond what’s currently in the bill. You can find your local representative here. At Reconstructing Dayton we support candidates who push for greater transparency in campaign finance reports. While HB 737 represents progress, the passage of this bill alone will not completely rid Ohio of dark money.

As a 501(c)4, Reconstructing Dayton is aware that these changes would directly affect us. Although we want our individual donors to have the option of anonymity because we challenge those in power, we also believe in being as transparent as possible.

Coronavirus Pivot: cut cities, not services.

During the Coronavirus crisis, we’ve had an additional crisis, the end of public meetings as we knew them. With every jurisdiction handling their meetings differently, and the normal watchdogs sidelined, it’s hard to say what’s been happening. Compare this with a community that has moved to “Unigov” where there is a lot less governmental overhead, keeping things simple to oversee.

It’s time to take another look at the value of cities like Moraine or school districts like Jefferson Township. We’ve included a part of a post from

The Coronavirus Crisis is going to cause havoc with municipal budgets that run off income tax. With huge swaths of newly unemployed not kicking in to the local government coffers, most cities are tightening their belts and reassessing where they allocate funds.

Some early projections show cities may lose 10% to 20% of 2020 projected income tax revenue.

“We’re looking at our budget issues that are coming down pretty heavy right now,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, whose city has asked department heads to look at making 18% cuts across the board.

The income tax revenue losses brought on by job cuts at businesses during the coronavirus pandemic is expected to hit Ohio cities especially hard because those taxes constitute up to 80% of general operating funds, according to the Ohio Municipal League.

Whaley and Kettering’s Don Patterson are part of a group of Ohio mayors who say cuts in local public safety forces will be needed if cities do not receive COVID-19 rescue funds from Congress in the near future.

“While our individual situations are unique, they’re common,”

Patterson said of Ohio cities. “One of us may have 70 police officers. The other one may have 500. The problem is we’re all faced with the same problem.”

Source: Cities sharpening budget knives – Dayton Daily News

While business owners are adapting and finding new ways to survive the new social distanced world, cities are still believing that they have some god given right to exist, while the rest of us suffer the coronavirus consequences.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for a pivot, one that’s long overdue. It’s time to thin the herd of local municipal overhead. Do we really need 54 jurisdictions? 17 police chiefs plus a sheriff, 7 municipal courts and their crappy websites, 24 city managers, 10 building inspection departments, and the list goes on (all numbers pulled out of my ass but, you get the picture). Do the lines on the map still make sense? Why are Fairborn, Beavercreek and Bellbrook in Greene County and Springboro in Warren, when Montgomery is mostly urban and all are connected to Dayton? Why do urban townships exist? Do we really believe Miami Township isn’t a city? And, let’s not even discuss the insular school districts with their constant grabs for levy money- while some districts are smaller than the high school I went to and one smaller than a single elementary school (Jefferson Township, I’m talking about you).

Suppose, we waved a magic wand post covid 19 and all the police forces were unifed under a single elected Sheriff? One department, one dispatch, one type of squad car, one kind of training, one SWAT team, one hostage negotiation team, one jail, one pay scale, and a lot less chiefs and a lot more Indians? We’d have a force of approximately 1500 officers. One chief. Instead, City Managers, who won’t show up at your door when you have a problem, are protecting themselves and their existence by threatening to cut safety forces.

This is unacceptable. This is why we started “Reaconstructing Dayton” 3 years ago to evaluate the costs of the multiple banana republics in Montgomery County, to make it clear why we’re one of the highest taxed communities in the state while getting very little bang for our buck.

We’ve got so many political offices to fill, that some don’t even have candidates running for them. Others, run unopposed. And the saddest fact is, most of these organizations are run by politicians who are far from our best or brightest (following national trends). Why, in the middle of a pandemic, would the city of Huber Heights squander $2.8M of the taxpayers money on a defunct shopping center, while they are facing huge revenue drops at their last boondoggle- The Rose, which won’t open it’s doors for up to 2 years.

Even the patchwork maze for collecting the varying income taxes for all these entities is expensive and frustrating to the businesses in the region. My office manager couldn’t even find the link to the City of Dayton income tax collection site on the city site, and curses the city for a portal that makes paying the tax almost as painful as the tax itself.

Source: Pivot: cut cities, not services. | Esrati

If you look at our dataset (which will be growing with your donations) you’ll start to see the inefficiencies of the current convoluted system of fiefdoms. It is our goal, to make it readily apparent, that the costs don’t justify the overhead and allow us to consolidate and improve delivery of services and transparency in government.

Are there other places the citizens of the region anchored by the City of Dayton could save money and get better services? Of course. It’s our job to help you take back control of your government and feel that you’re getting your monies worth.

Neighborhood’s for Dayton’s Future Campaign Finance Report

Neighborhood’s for Dayton’s Future is a Political Action Committee whose purpose is to raise money towards refurbishing local neighborhoods. The treasurer for this campaign is Michael Voelker.

2011 Annual Campaign Finance Report 
Starting Balance- $38,837.00
Total Contributions- $0.00
Total Monetary Expenditures- $17,000.00
Ending Balance- $22,064.00

2012 Annual Campaign Finance Report
Starting Balance- $22,064.00
Total Contributions- N/A
Total Monetary Expenditures- N/A
Ending Balance- N/A

2013 Annual Campaign Finance Report 
Starting Balance- $22,236.57
Total Contributions- $0.00
Total Monetary Expenditures- $0.00
Ending Balance- $22,236.57

2014 Annual Campaign Finance Report
Starting Balance- $36,556.24
Total Contributions- $0.00
Total Monetary Expenditures- $2,000.00
Ending Balance- $34,556.24

2015 Annual Campaign Finance Report 
Starting Balance- $34,556.24
Total Contributions- $0.00
Total Monetary Expenditures- $0.00
Ending Balance- $34,556.24

2016 Annual Campaign Finance Report 
Starting Balance- not legible
Total Contributions- $0.00
Total Monetary Expenditures- $1,051.33
Ending Balance- $50,918.34

2017 Annual Campaign Finance Report 
Starting Balance- $43,038.65
Total Contributions- $0.00
Total Monetary Expenditures- $1,373.39
Ending Balance- $41,665.26

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