Thursday, January 21, 2016

Reaching out to better understand the future of campaign finance.

Only time will tell if the proposed ordinance has actual positive effect on electioneering in Miami-Dade County. While I appreciate the responsiveness of the commissioner's COO, I wait for the final language to personally conclude on the issue.
It began with a letter I wrote regarding campaign finance reform and ended with a promise from the Levine-Cava's COO Adele Valencia promising to address some of my concerns.



Dear Committee Members,
Please review and publicly discuss the strengths and shortcomings of legislation prepared by Commissioner Levine-Cava. If the proposal intends to curb illegal or unethical financial solicitations does the existing text go far enough? Or might you suggest boo such problem exists?
Can this legislation adequately address the publicly marketed intention? For instance, requiring solicitation disclosure only the year prior to a campaign incentives the moral hazard of making those solicitations more than a year before a campaign!
Likewise what comments and interpretations have legal experts made on the proposal? Could they find loopholes which shield politicians from reporting requirements while allowing them to continue solutions?
Thank you for your time in reviewing these comments, please be well!
-Prem Barbosa

Dear Prem,

Thank you for your interest in this legislation and for your thoughtful message. You raise many important and interesting points. My name is Adele and I work for Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who sponsored this legislation.

We welcome your ideas on how to make it stronger and more effective. Commissioner Levine Cava ran for public office to try to make our local government more accountable, transparent, responsive and inclusive.

From our perspective, the goal of this legislation is to move Miami-Dade in a positive direction and particularly,  to help demystify the campaign fundraising picture locally in the hopes that more residents would come out and engage if they have more faith in the process.

We based the legislation on existing state code. We did our best to balance the need for transparency with the potential burden on office-holders and office-seekers (hence the one year out from the campaign reporting period). We drew on helpful policy recommendations from the Sunlight Foundation (read more here: http://sunlightfoundation.com/about/).

No legislation is perfect, and what we have proposed in the political committee legislation is not an overhaul of the campaign finance system, but hopefully, one step in the right direction.

Commissioner Levine Cava believes strongly that more public input makes any process stronger, so we appreciate you having taken the time to write.

I hope I’ve clarified a little bit about where we are coming from. If you have any suggestions you would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Warm Regards,


Adele Valencia
Chief Operations Officer
Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava

Greetings Adele Valencia, 
The language of the ordinance could do with clarification, including but not limited to definitions of important terms. I had trouble understanding which particular solicitations fall subject to disclosure, and which people other than the actual politician engaging in solicitations would fall subject to disclosure.
Specifically, I'm not sure to whom the solicitations are theoretically made, and for what propose the funds are acquired. The premise of "fundraising through political committees" suggests the intended scope of the law to include a public official requesting private individuals and organizations to make campaign donations directly to a political committee, rather than actual accounts of the official. However the language of the bill itself falls short of what "would provide needed sunlight" on campaign financing.
You provide no evidence to substantiate the suggestion that the state bill, from which this is trickled down, fulfills sufficient and necessary conditions to affect the marketed sunlight. This may not be a traditional standard in proposing laws, however if you have any research or data regarding the effects of the state law, please send them to meConsider that a public records request.
Regarding the language itself:
In the first (1) part of the proposed ordinance only solicitations "by the candidate" fall subject to disclosure, which fails to include employees, associates, representative or representations of the candidate from serving a similar role.
The second (2) part applies to elected officials as opposed to candidates, but targets only the year prior to the election of any particular official position, which of course fails to include solicitations made by elected officials for campaign purposes before that time period. Suggesting such disclosures over-burden fund-raisers ignores that these solicitations are done with the specific purpose of influencing the democratic process. 
Finally, the punishment section (3) sets out fines for violations without specifying the party responsible for over-seeing compliance. Charging the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust with reviewing appeals undermines the seriousness of the responsibilities in seeking and maintaining elected positions. The Trust is a non-democratic, independent body made-up of political insiders appointed by the some of the very people they are expected to regulate.
I appreciate your time in reaching out to me, however I hope you seriously consider my concerns. I recognize the difficulty in asking elected officials and politicians to expose more of themselves to the public for scrutiny, however I am not convinced that proposing a law with loop-holes and nepotistic enforcement will have any net positive effect except to hassle new and inexperienced politicians. On the other hand I suspect those already well versed in the game of political corruption and nepotism will easily surf the wide barriers which you attempt to erect here. This allows politician's associates to solicit on their behalf without disclosing to the public; politicians themselves can solicit funds for other candidates and campaigns any time a year prior to their position's elections without public disclosure; violators can negotiate sweet-heart non-guilty rulings by the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, skirting the intent of the ordinance altogether.

Be Well,
Prem Barbosa

Dear Prem,

Please forgive the delay in my reply. I have been looking back for anything responsive to the public records request you have made and working with the Commissioner and County Attorney to draft revisions to our legislation based, in part, on your suggestions.

We are seriously considering all of the points you have raised and in the process of drafting some amendments to the legislation.  We are considering a revision to the first paragraph to make it even clearer who, precisely, has the responsibility to report. We are also considering a revision to make the law apply at all times, not just one year out from election.

I have no research or data regarding the effects of the state law. Again, our intention is to bring our code into line with State law and make it easier for Miami-Dade voters to understand our campaign finance picture.

Thank you for your time and input. Please know we have taken it to heart.

Warm Regards,

Adele


I felt no need to address the issue further or take any more of Adele's time. Bringing County code in line with State law concerns me, particularly in any manner which it can strip the local government of its autonomy. Special interests can compose and disingenuously promote legislation through well-intentioned elected officials, or light can be shone upon these same activities for the investigation and criticism by the public. I recommend those interested in the subject participate in the public discourse.

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