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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Bait-n-Switch, Akron-Style

In 1998, the folks of Akron, Ohio decided they'd had enough with the loosey-goosey world of behind-the-scenes money in local politics. With over 60% of the vote, they passed a ballot initiative which instituted a $300 limit on campaign contributions to candidates for Mayor and At-Large Council, and a $100 limit for candidates for Council Ward.

Their mayor didn't like it though, going so far as to direct the City of Akron Law Department to oppose the initiative in court. So much for representative democracy.

The citizens of Akron persevered though, eventually winning the case at the Sixth Circuit of Appeals in 2002. In 2003, the Akron City Council enacted enabling legislation to make the law official.

As Julie Wallace reports in the Akron Beacon Journal, the victory for the folks in Akron wasn't what they thought. City lawyers (the same department that opposed the initiative), inserted some language in the enabling Ordinance which effectively doubled the contribution limits by applying them to the primary or general election, not the two combined.

Mayor Plusquellic took advantage of this switcheroo to accept more than $300 from multiple contributors in winning the mayor's race last November, even though he had no challenger in the primary. He was just following the law. Now he wants to appoint a panel of experts to take a look at the law. Make it more "user-friendly".

Shoot. The citizens of Akron made things pretty clear six years ago - they don't want big money influencing their elections. Maybe it's time the mayor talked with them instead of the lawyers.

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