OUR VIEW: Discussion of campaign finance is a good startWe’ve long been proponents of requiring campaign finance reports from Mitchell city candidates and ballot question committees. Such reporting is required of candidates at the school district, county and state level, and it just seems strange that we wouldn’t expect the same level of accountability at the municipal level.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
We’ve long been proponents of requiring campaign finance reports from Mitchell city candidates and ballot question committees. Such reporting is required of candidates at the school district, county and state level, and it just seems strange that we wouldn’t expect the same level of accountability at the municipal level.
Beyond that, more openness in government is always a good thing.
That’s why we’re pleased that the Mitchell City Council, at the behest of Councilman Mel Olson, has begun discussions that could lead to a vote on the implementation of campaign finance reporting requirements for our city elections.
At Monday night’s City Council meeting, where the discussion was broached for the first time, some council members and the mayor expressed their opposition to the idea.
Councilman Dan Allen said he doesn’t think it’s “anybody’s business” where he gets his campaign money. We disagree. In fact, we’d say that within Ward 2, which Allen represents, it’s everybody’s business. Money can equal influence in politics, and people deserve to know where their elected officials are getting their money and who might be influencing them.
We’re not accusing Allen or any other Mitchell politician of being influenced by campaign cash. We just think voters deserve a chance to see the information and draw their own conclusions. In fact, we think candidates should welcome campaign finance reporting, because it provides them with an opportunity to dispel rumors and allegations of improper influence.
Councilman Marty Barington and Mayor Lou Sebert said campaign-finance reporting could be so burdensome that it would prevent people from running for office. We disagree with that, too. As commonplace as campaign finance reporting is at every other level of government, we think Mitchell city candidates and ballot committees are probably surprised they don’t have to file reports.
We at The Daily Republic are routinely contacted by readers who are very surprised to learn that candidates and committees in Mitchell elections do not have to disclose their finances. In fact, we’re often criticized by readers who think we’re overlooking or concealing local candidates’ and committees’ finances, when in fact we have no access to the information.
Furthermore, we would assert that those candidates who might be turned away by something as minor as a campaign finance report probably don’t have the stomach for politics anyway.
We don’t know whether the council members will approve campaign finance reporting. We hope they do, and we hope they require it for both candidates and ballot committees. (Remember the arena vote in 2007? There was plenty of money spent to influence that election, including newspaper, radio and billboard advertisements.)
Whatever happens, we do feel that a small victory has already been won. Despite pleas for campaign finance requirements over the years from various sources, the issue never pierced the consciousness of the City Council.
Now it has, and that’s a start.