Tampa ponders campaign finance reform

09/20/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Earlier this year, Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder engaged in a financial war with a well funded opponent in his bid for re-election. Dingfelder won, but he says some citizens approached him afterward about changing the laws to prevent so much money being spent on a local election.

Current law puts a $500 cap on individual contributing to races for mayor and City Council. City Attorney David Smith said that his office has learned that local muncipalities can make their own regulations.

City Councilman Charlie Miranda said that he’s not against reform, per se, but had concerns.

Dingfelder defeated Julie Brown in March. But he also faced unaffiliated third-party groups spending tens of thousands of dollars in postcards and radio ads to defeat him.

Dingfelder said some developers were dead set against his re-election.

But those developers were able to contribute to third party groups – and Dingfelder acknowledged that it would be problematic to try to regulate those types of contributions.

Nevertheless, the topic of developers seemed to set off Councilman Thomas Scott, who insisted that his vote was never for sale.

Councilwoman Linda Saul Sena mentioned a good government group as being her standard bearer on the of campaign finance (roll tape#5 o.q.”in a few months”)

Councilchair Gwen Miller said it was silly to think that campaign contributions could ever affect any councilmembers vote (roll tape#6 o.q.”before we do this”)

But Joseph Catano, who won elective office for the first time in March, said he could see the potential for fundraising abuses.

The City Council voted 6-1 to have the City Attorney research the implications of reducing the maximum financial amount an individual could contribute to a campaign. Only Thomas Scott dissented.

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