Council Rejects Proposal For Immediate Disclosure Of Some Campaign Donations

May 11, 2021

A measure voted down by a Cincinnati council committee Tuesday would have required immediate disclosure of some campaign donations. Council Member Greg Landsman says he's working on a new version of his proposal to require sitting council members and the mayor to report donations above $200 within 48 hours. The donations would be published on a new city website where the public could search the filings.

"I think this is a really important step to restore public trust as it relates to contributions and votes, how policy is made," Landsman said.

Some members of the Law and Public Safety Committee objected to the measure, saying it would be a burden to require such frequent filing.

Interim Member Liz Keating says a new state-level campaign finance portal is already available thanks to a change in state law that took effect in January.

"I would like to suggest changes to this in saying that we would just require everyone to file electronically in the system that already exists so we're not paying for more and creating more work for the administration," Keating said.

Ohio candidates can still file state-mandated campaign finance reports by paper, so the online portal is just another option. Keating was the first on council to file electronically, allowing the public to search the data. So far, only Interim Council Member Steve Goodin has joined her in filing electronically.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Secretary of State's office says it is theoretically possible to use the state's online portal more frequently than the mandatory six times a year.

Keating also suggested requiring the disclosures once a month instead of within 48 hours.

Landsman says that doesn't get to the heart of the issue.

"We vote every week, so I don't think even a month will do the trick," he said.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman says he wants more transparency in campaign finance, but this proposal would be too complicated.

"It's not an indication of whether members of this committee support transparency or not," Smitherman said. "This is not the litmus test, this legislation, it's just not."

Some candidates for federal office are required to report donations of $1,000 or more within 48 hours, if the donations are made within 20 days of an election. 

The measure failed five to one with David Mann abstaining.

Landsman says he's already working on an amended version and hopes to bring it back to council soon.

He proposed the measure in response to three council members indicted on corruption charges last year. The members are accused of accepting money in exchange for positive votes on development projects. 

While Tamaya Dennard and Jeff Pastor were accused of pocketing money for personal use, P.G. Sittenfeld has been charged with directing checks from developers into a Political Action Committee he controls.