Members of Florida’s congressional delegation vulnerable because of their balanced districts each raised hundreds of thousands
With Scott Wagman’s pronouncement that he plans to raise at least a half-a-million dollars for his campaign, there is an increasing concern about the impact of money in this year’s municipal elections. With the mayor’s office and five seats on the city council up for election, there could be at least a million dollars in campaign contributions made to all of the candidates running.
That is a staggering amount of money, especially in this economic climate, and it needs to be clear where this money is coming from and how it is being spent. The City Clerk’s office already does an admirable job collecting the Campaign Treasurer’s reports from each campaign and providing copies of these documents upon request. With so many important races on the ballot this year, I believe it’s time St. Petersburg’s city government goes one step further in the spirit of transparency and clean elections.
Either the City Council or Mayor Rick Baker needs to instruct the City Clerk’s office to develop an online system that provides all of the information found on the Campaign Treasurers’ report, including all of the contributors to each campaign, the dates when contributions are made and all of the expenditures each candidate makes. This should go beyond a posting of the Campaign Treasurers’ reports, to include an actual database that can be searched for specific information. (This kind of system is already in place at the state and county level, so we know it can be done.) I wish I knew city government better so that I could specifically propose what action must be undertaken to develop the system I envision, so I will leave it to the elected officials to fill in the details.
As always in government, it is a matter of cost and priority. No matter what the cost, what is more important than clean and fair elections?
On a personal note: I know a little something about what can go wrong in an election when there is not enough transparency in a campaign. That is why I would hate to see a negative situation develop in any of the campaigns that are operating this year. It is imperative that our city government ensure that voters are able to make an informed decision about the candidates. That can only occur if it is clear who is supporting the respective candidates.