Too much money in Tampa municipal elections? By Mitch E. Perry

WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday

One of the most closely watched races in the Tampa City Council elected slated for next week is the race between John Dingfelder and Julie Brown in Tampa’s 4th District.


Both candidates have been in the news for questionable fundraising practices.  But it’s the sheer amount of their campaign contribution: $128,000 for Dingfelder, and $114,000 for Brown, that has made most of the headlines. 


It’s also crowded out a 3rd candidate in the race, Joe Citro, who has been able to raise only $7,000 plus for the race. 


At a forum for the candidates running city wide in Tampa last week, Citro asked a question as a member of the audience at the Tiger Bay Club (roll tape#1 o.q.  each campaign ”)


The question received varying responses from members of the current Council.  Linda Saul-Sena said she would support some type of system (roll tape#2 o.q.”quality of your ideas”)


But Sean Harrison, who is outspending his opponent, Mary Mulhern by a 6-1 ratio, doesn’t wants such limits (roll tape#3 o.q.”we would even go there”)


(roll tape#4 o.q.”natural consequence of that”)

Scott Paine is professor of communications and government at the University of Tampa.  He says Tampa’s law of a maximum of contributing $500 to a candidate for City Council and Mayor protects incumbents (roll tape#4 o.q.”just buying name recognition”)


One attempt to even the financial playing field has been the introduction of public financing into campaigns at the state and local levels.


Steve Levin is the Political Reform Project Director for Center for Governmental Studies

Based in Los Angeles.  He says there are roughly around 13 cities across the country who have a form of public financing.  Most provide funding after the candidates meets a certain financial threshold (roll tape#5 o.q.”in the city”)


The man who brought the question up,  District 4 candidate Joseph Citro, said he doesn’t have an issue with how much money people can raise, but says he thinks the system is unfair right now (roll tape#6 o.q.”instead of being overshadowed”)


Florida Democratic State Senator Fredericka Wilson filed such a bill in the senate last year regarding a Clean Money Trust Fund, where it died in committee.


Steve Levin from the Center for Governmental Studies says that the movement for public financing of some sort is slowly growing across the country, due to circumstances present in this year’s Tampa City Council races (roll tape#6B” revise and fix the system”)


But Joe Citro, thinks something is needed, and now.  Citro is a hair sylist who has served on the City Code Enforcement Board and Civil Service Boards.


But University of Tampa and former City Council member Scott Paine says that in 2007, a candidate is going to have to spend more than $7,000 in a competitive South Tampa race (roll tape#7 o.q.” even if there’s spending caps”)


Citro sees Paine’s point, but says something has gone whack considering how much more expensive it is to run for the District 4 seat compared to 4 years (roll tape# 8 o.q.”the intelligent voter”)


Citro’s point is that it doesn’t cost money to participate in local forums – a point that Linda Saul_Sena said last week (roll tape#9 o.q.””campaign contributions”)


The Election for Tampa City Council takes place a week from tomorrow..although early voting continues thru Saturday.


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