What good are finance reports if we can’t easily look them up?

If the idea of turning in campaign finance reports for elections is to provide transparency, the Montgomery County Board of Elections gets a big fat F.

I can search the Federal Elections Commission database and analyze who gave money to which Congressman- and cross index by employer. I can go to other sites that pivot the data and make it easier to do analysis- like Open Secrets that is very useful for this- It even includes the ability to link to a search (the proper way to do this- if anyone at Montgomery County is taking notes).

But, to look at campaign finance reports for this year, or past years, it means calling or going to the Board of Elections and looking at old fashioned paper. Not even badly created PDFs that are just scanned and not made readable via optical character recognition. I was lucky enough to get Rhine McLin’s and Nan Whaley’s campaign finance reports faxed over, and with just a cursory look, there is a lot more big money coming in than the Dayton Daily News  mentioned in its article McLin, Whaley lead money race for mayor, city commission campaign. Sure, the 15,500 that a Mr. Kitt Cooper “donated” should make any reporter very curious, but, it wasn’t just 2 checks for over $1,000 from Kettering Health Network senior officials- there were a whole bunch of them (as soon as I confirm employment with sources inside the hospital- and cross referencing Federal donations to Mike Turner’s Congressional campaigns to confirm- I’ll have the complete list for you). The irony of someone supporting McLin with big money- who also supports Turner with big money- says more about what money buys- as compared to, uh, political ideals.

Looking over expenditures- if you donate to McLin or Whaley, you are also giving them money to play with. Yep, they freely give to other candidates according to the reports- probably to attend fundraisers for other democrats. I can guarantee no money given to me will do that (although in full disclosure, if I hire my employees to do work on the campaign- I do pay my own company. Of course, this is the same thing Mike Turner does with his wife’s firm). I’m sure a few commentator’s will go bat-crazy on that policy- although it’s always been disclosed. I don’t bill my supporters for the work I do- and that costs me a lot of time and money.

The last difference between my campaign report and those of McLin and Whaley- mine has no donations by Political Action Committees or Special Interest Groups. I also see a check or two that seems to be drawn on company funds- technically a no-no. I was once reprimanded for accepting $500 in cash- and had to issue a check back, and get a check from a supporter. Different standards for different candidates I guess.

Again, I’d love to be able to just simply post their reports for you to see, or give you a link to their sites, or to the BOE with them, but I guess I’m the only one who seems to try to make sure that the information is right there for you, to analyze it yourself. That’s the kind of government I believe in, and the kind of leadership I want to bring to Dayton.

Please consider a donation or sign up to volunteer on the sidebar at right, if you support this kind of transparency in government and my campaign. To borrow from the Obama campaign, please consider a donation of $25 to help the cause.

Thank you.

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6 Responses

  1. David Lauri August 5, 2009 / 9:24 am
    Did you get Joey Williams’ too?

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  2. David Esrati August 5, 2009 / 10:27 am

    @David L.
    Joey didn’t raise $10K and didn’t have to file.

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  3. Jennifer Alexander August 5, 2009 / 1:21 pm
    Jennifer Alexander (Sugarcreek, hometown Kettering)

    Very few county BOE’s have access to these much needed PUBLIC records online…and many county BOE’s like Greene simply do not follow the Ohio Sunshine Laws for access to Public Records…you gain so much much insight with these records…what a shame BOE’s in Ohio are still so half ass run, by back woods idiots still thinking Ken Blackwell’s policies are still legit…yet, what a bigger shame that most voters don’t cry foul…nor ever attend a BOE public meeting…or request public records.  If anyone wants to see their tax $ going directly into lobbyist hands…request records from BOE of their membership fees of the director, deputy director & a long list of other BOE staff that they pay the annual Association dues & fees for all to be members of the OAEO (Ohio Association of Election Officials) plus many other national election associations, plus travel expenses to these conferences. These membership fees are not coming out of the BOE staff or board members pay checks, like many other professions, teachers pay their own membership dues. Many BOE board members (Greene County) we’re actually clueless that the OAEO had yearly membership dues, and that the county was just footing their bill.
    The big kicker…OAEO will not allow Public Records, even though our county taxes all across Ohio are paying for their association. Therefore citizens/voters have no idea what happens behind closed doors at their meetings, training classes & confrences. Yet, voting machine vendors (Premier/Diebold) are in there soliciting business while wining & dining the BOE members. The OAEO even has it’s own lobbyist Aaron Ockerman (State Steet Consultants, Columbus) who also use to be a lobbyist for Priemer/Diebold…also for the City of Dayon…and seems to have a pretty big hand, rather behind the scenes hand, in Ohio politics. With the years worth of reseach & boxes of BOE public records request I have, the only OAEO info I’ve ever been able to secure, was by requesting BOE director emails from Ockerman & what an interesting read many of them were.

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  4. Jeff August 5, 2009 / 7:57 pm
    The state has followed the FECs lead and has a pretty good online database for state reps, state senate and the statewide offices.  You can seach it, and it lists employers of the donors as well as donors, so one can track potential bundling.

    But yes, the local BOEs are weak.  They are not required by law to list the occupation or employer of contributors, so a lot of useful info isnt in the reports.  And, as Esrati noted, they are all hardcopy.  My experience with the actual records kept by Montgomery County was the files seemed complete, it just takes a lot of time  to sift through them.
    Looking over expenditures- if you donate to McLin or Whaley, you are also giving them money to play with. Yep, they freely give to other candidates according to the reports- probably to attend fundraisers for other democrats.
    Excellent call.  This is pretty common at the Congressional and Statehouse level, where certain “Relection Committees” act as large donors themselves, seeding races.  This is the function that Vern Rife held, as a rainmaker for the Dems via his campaign committee.  Husted now does the same for the GOP.  But its interesting to see it operating at the local level, with McLin and Whaley.   Another good subject for a flowchart (just kidding)
     
     
     
     
     

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  5. Molly Darcy August 8, 2009 / 10:00 am
    Well David, at least the mystery is solved as to why you’re “running”–anything to drum up some business for yourself huh? I know the economy is bad and all but wow, that puts you in the same league as your buddies the Turner’s doesn’t it??? Of course, they’re true professionals and know how to work the system for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you could be on your way to a profitable career. Good work.

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  6. David Lauri August 9, 2009 / 11:32 am
    @molly: One might well argue that the sinister motive behind David E’s running for office is to get publicity and thus to get additional business for The Next Wave — http://www.thenextwave.biz.
    But can you point to anything overtly illegal?  Would you like to share some evidence of The Next Wave getting no bid contracts from local governments or from quasi-governmental agencies?  Or perhaps you have some evidence of an Esrati relative getting some sort of kick backs?
    Otherwise I’d be interested to hear some specifics of just what you think David E’s done wrong.
    And lest you accuse me of being some David E fanboy, I’m not.  I haven’t given him any money, nor have I volunteered any time or materials for his campaign.  I’ll probably vote for him, but the main reason is that I refuse to vote for Joey Williams given Williams’ abstention on the local gay rights ordinance, and thus my choices are limited.  I’m still not convinced that I should vote only for David E and not cast a second ballot — a strategy diehard David E supporters have been urged on this blog to adopt — because I do appreciate Nan Whaley’s support of the gay rights ordinance.

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