As far as The Stark County Political Report (SCPR) is concerned one of the big scandals of the Ohio election system is Ohio's scheme of campaign finance reporting at the local level of elections.
Yours truly has written quite a few blogs over the seven plus years existence of The Stark County Political Report.
Here is a list of some of those blogs:
As a general rule, the SCPR does not favor limitations on whom can contribute and what amount in election campaigns.
The are two exceptions however.
One being lawyers who practice in courts, candidates for which are the beneficiaries of contributions from such lawyers.
The other being equating corporations to being human persons who are thereby entitled to constitutional protections of free speech (campaign contributions being defined as free speech) as has been decided by the United States Supreme Court.
In this SCPR series there will be two foci.
With respect to the Guardado/Alexander Canton Municipal Court judge race, the number of lawyers who are contributing to each candidates for the Canton Municipal Court bench.
And with respect to elections-in-general, how poorly local boards of elections serve citizens in providing campaign contribution information in an easily sortable format so that citizens:
- can be AWARE of whom is contributing to whom,
- in order to be AWARE of what connections contributors may have with respect to the contributors contributing to specific candidates
- in order to influence decisions of successful candidates for office
- SCPR Note: Despite having been in the Ohio General Assembly either as a state representative or state senator, Jackson Township's Kirk Schuring could not convince his fellows to require candidates for local office (cities, villages, townships and boards of education) to require that contributors of $100 or more to list their vocation or identify their respective employers.
Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court Maureen O'Connor (originally from the Akron area) has made headlines in recent years about making reforms to the judicial selection process,but the SCPR does recall that any of the reforms had to do with better informing Ohioans what if any political interest (e.g. presenting cases before the court for which the contributed to person is running for) a contributor may or may not have in making a contribution.
A simple check off box on a campaign finance report, for instance, could require a contributor to indicate whether or not the contributor or if a part of a law firm or legal partnership appears in, has appeared in or might appear as legal counsel in in a court the candidate for which a political contribution has been made.
A better remedy to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, would be for a candidate to inquire of a would-be lawyer contributor on the the question her/his practicing law in the court that the candidate aspires to, and if the contributor has, does and is more likely than not to practice in the court, then the candidate should voluntarily refuse to accept any such offered contribution.
However the SCPR realizes that such is "pie in the sky" thinking.
Supreme Court Justice O'Connor herself has undoubtedly benefited herself from such contributions in courts she has served in during her legal career.
Accordingly, it is interesting that so far as the SCPR knows, she has not proposed tightening up the reporting process in judicial races so that voters are in a position to be AWARE of whom is contributing to whom when it comes to the administration of justice.
The SCPR shudders to think that such a factor has anything whatsoever to do with the administration of justice.
But one of the fundamentals of due diligence when it comes to political interests potentially influencing government (executive, legislative and judicial branches of government) is for a citizen to FOLLOW THE MONEY and make an assessment whether or not there is appearance of impropriety.
That the Ohio General Assembly and Ohio's chief overseers of the integrity of Ohio's judicial system (i.e. members of the Ohio Supreme Court) have done very little, if anything, or have been anemic in providing for a structure of information for voters to evaluate candidates for office, should be disturbing to all of us who are committed to the trustworthiness of governments at all levels.
Accordingly, the SCPR contends that the likes of Schuring, the Ohio General Assembly and Chief Justice O'Connor are a significant part of the problem of the ever increasing skepticism if not cynicism on the part of the electorate resulting in more and more citizens "dropping out" of our cherished democratic-republican system of government.
TODAY'S CASE STUDY
ALEXANDER VERSUS GUARDADO
This race is likely the top election face off in Stark County's 2015 off year elections.
The amounts of money raised and/or put into the campaign (allowing for candidates' loans to their campaigns) are huge.
For the stakes are very high for the candidates themselves in terms of personal ambition and the SCPR thinks for the Canton Municipal Court practicing legal community and the perception of some that they must be correct in picking the winner because perhaps in a subtle, unarticulated, unrecognized fashion they feel their very livelihoods depend on doing so.
Such having been said, let The Stark County Political Report additionally say that there undoubtedly those, who having the appearance of having a vocational interest on who wins and who loses, are not contributing to further those interests but rather are contributing because they sincerely think that this candidate or that candidate is the "on the merits of it" the better qualified candidate and therefore contribute in order to help get the best quality of the administration of justice candidate elected as judge.
Human beings what human beings are, the SCPR suspects that a distinct minority of those with a vocational interest are contributing for the sake of better government.
And that is why the SCPR thinks the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio Secretary of State Office and the Stark County Board of Elections need to go all out with promoting/building structural requirements of reporting relevant information and making access to that information easy and user friendly to the Ohio/Stark County body politic.
Such is clearly not the case currently.
Stark County Auditor Alan Harold and his chief technology officer appear to be interested in cajoling the Stark County Board of Elections into doing much better in providing easy access to sortable election data information.
But it is too early to give Harold credit for being effective in his purported endeavor. Time will tell. Hopefully, results will be realized "sooner than later."
Here is a detailed analysis of the contributions to the Alexander and Guardado campaigns.
Angela Alexander's campaign finance report shows that there are very few if any Stark County-based attorneys if any who are trying to curry favor with a Judge Angela Alexander should she be nominated by Stark Democrats on May 5th and go on to win the general election.
To boot, most of all her campaign money is in the form of a loan from herself to her campaign.
The attorneys who have contributed to her campaign are Summit County based and most of whom are connected with her Summit County workplace (the Summit County prosecutor's office) who are not likely going to be finding their way to Stark to practice before the Canton Municipal Court.
Contrasted to Alexander, Kristen Guardado's list of Stark County-based contributors might well leave some voters and tad nervous about what the implied expectation might be on the part of the contributing attorneys in making the contributions.
If they have such expectations, the SCPR thinks they will prove to be utterly ill-founded and that Kristen Guardado will never, ever entertain a scintilla of a thought as to whether or not and in what amount a given attorney appearing in her court has contributed to her campaign.
The Report has no concerns about Guardado.
However, the failure of Ohio judicial authorities and the Ohio legislation to pay attention to the likelihood that the general public might take a skeptical/cynical look at process that allows - in the administration of justice - those attorneys appearing before judges receiving campaign contributions and thereby develop a perception that something is wrong with such a campaign finance system to the point of some questioning the integrity/trustworthiness of it ought to be a matter of great concern.
Much work needs to be done by the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio General Assembly to fix a system of campaign finances for judicial races that causes furrowed brows to grace the faces of quite a number in the body politic.
- SCPR Note: The Report has endeavored to note which of each candidates' contributors are lawyers but since that information is not required on local reports (thanks to Representative Schuring and his fellows in the Ohio General Assembly) there are likely attorney contributors that the SCPR has been unable to identify as being such).
- The SCPR trusts that this blog's readers will send information to The Report at firstname.lastname@example.org that is missed on who on the contributor is an attorney in those instances where such an identity does not appear.
Unlike The Canton Repository, The Cleveland Plain Dealer makes a meaningful effort to push Ohio officials into making structural and ease of access reforms to Ohio's campaign finance reporting mechanism so that voters can be better informed about the influence peddling money that is injected into Ohio political campaigns.
Sebian credits the Ohio secretary of state with being "the standard" for localities like Stark County to follow in terms of providing database sortable campaign finance information and the SCPR agrees, to wit:
The Ohio secretary of state's campaign-finance database illustrates the standard to which we should hold local boards of elections.However, as noted earlier in this blog the Ohio General Assembly in concert with the Ohio secretary of state office needs to enhance, expand and sharpen up the structure of campaign finance reporting.
Until and unless fundamental democratic-republican enhancing reforms are made including campaign finance reporting and ease of access to information as to whom is contributing how much to whom, one does not want hear the "woe is me" lamentations by public officials about the growing body politic disenchantment with the integrity and trustworthiness of our processes of government.
Increasingly, Americans, including - of course - Stark Countians are voting with their feet and their feet are increasingly avoiding their neighborhood polling places on election days.
The SCPR thinks that elected officials themselves over time in their political self-servingness have played a major role in eroding the public's confidence in the integrity and trustworthiness of democratic-republican system of government.