ISSUES: Miami-Dade Campaign Finance Reform

A proposed ballot item backed by unions and democrats has caused quite a stir in the Miami-Dade County Commission. The measure looks to address “the appearance of ethical impropriety” in county government by limiting maximum campaign donations as well as who can give to county candidates and some political action committees. Our guest host Miami Herald reporter, Doug Hanks discusses the pros and cons of the proposed ballot item.

Proposed bout item back by unions and democrats has caused quite a stir in the miami-dade county commission the measure looks to address quote the appearance of ethical impropriety and county government by limiting maximum campaign donations as well as who can give the candidates and some political action committees a question is the ballot language which county

Lawyers warren would not survive a court challenge some county commissioners also took exception with the presumption that there’s a serious problem that needs fixing commissioner stay bond bovo saying quote there was an implication here that this board is corrupt he rejects that implication joining me to discuss the pros and cons of this proposed november ballot

Item we welcome juan kooba executive director of my need a democrats and a supporter of the bout initiative and eric su quella lobbyists and founder of p3 management eric opposes the effort gentleman welcome to the program 1 i’ll start with you one of these rules would ban lobbyist contributions to county commissioners why is it fair for you to give a check to

Your favorite commissioner and not eric sure look doug it’s no secret that there is a pay-to-play culture across our politics especially in miami-dade look i’m not pointing any fingers because it’s not any one person’s fault it’s a systemic problem it’s a problem with our system that encourages this type of behavior our county commission and mayoral elections

Right now are largely funded by county contractors and their lobbyists even commissioners with no opponent raised over a quarter million dollars and it roads public trust in government and leads the bad policy making before i turn or eric let me ask you a follow-up what about unions unions wouldn’t be affected by this rule they give the cameras races the when we

Lower maximum contributions from a thousand dollars to two hundred and fifty dollars that applies to everyone including unions even the unions the largest union that represent the afl-cio they can only give two hundred fifty dollars and now we’re talking about each member can only give 250 hours the union itself can only give two hundred and fifty dollars to the

County commission they represent 120,000 people i think that’s pretty fair and we talked about members we’re talking about sanitation workers we’re talking about bus drivers to take you to work we’re talking about parking attendants they don’t have the same corrupting influence that potential county contractors in the lobbyists that have the right financial game

At stake ok eric role of money in politics how would you define it is it a problem well doug thank you for having me it’s a pleasure to be here i just say that i totally understand why the average person wants to take big money out of politics i get that it makes total sense except you need to keep this in perspective what what’s being proposed to the voters here

And what’s in the ballot language is very different from what the ordinance actually does okay and the voters have a right to know what they’re voting on they can’t be deceived and this is a clear deception plain and simple what’s the septum about well basically what the unions and democratic party are attempting to do is to outlaw contributions for everyone except

Themselves that’s not sure they’ve drafted a set of ordinances that applies only to everyone else so basically a small business that maybe is working out of a garage has five employees might have a government contract for 250 thousand dollars is now not allowed to give to their local county commissioner except the unions and the democratic party are allowed to give

Unlimited amounts of money to packs and that’s just wrong it’s a deception plain and simple but before we’ve all got something to say the group behind this is a cannibal mining dade and what it’s pushing is a campaign finance reform initiative that they’re trying to get lin of them about we’ll see if that happens there was a petition drive three things it does it

Strengthens enforcement of existing campaign finance laws and increases penalties and violations it ban its owners of companies that make more than 250,000 dollars a year off of county business from donating to candidates for county office the band also includes lobbyists they hire and even the owners family members and it reduces the maximum contribution to two

Hundred fifty dollars per election per person for county candidates one banning someone’s family members because they’re related someone who does county business is that appropriate look there are the supreme court doesn’t stop governments from regulating entities and people who they can see potentially has a corrupting influence their cities across the country

That have a similar ban six cities in miami-dade alone we have miami beach my gardens south miami palmetto bay miami lakes all happened three of them include direct family members it’s a loophole the same way you know they the lobbyists and their contractors can give through all their family members and they do and that’s what we’re trying to stop here that’s

What we’re trying to limit and but but but let’s go back to the union point because it doug if i could just be limitless and ask this question the union’s certainly try to influence government and this band would not restrict a lobbyist from getting to 50 to restrict all donations why not eliminate the influence of unions whose members or county employees again i

Addressed this earlier unions first everyone is limited to 250 dollar donations including the largest you need limited to 250 but except me while connick county contractors and their lobbyists would not be able to contribute at all because they have a direct conflict of interest because they’re seeking contracts and financial gain directly from influencing policy

Makers this is something other municipalities do and and just on the point of the union’s this is not a power struggle to try to create a narrative that this is a power struggle between unions and handle and lobbyists is not true this is about giving people a larger voice and role in their government we have a bipartisan coalition that it’s not just democrats we

Have republicans too okay eric what’s your response to that well to hear mr. cuba talk about the constitution and the law and and what the courts are going to do it you know i guess you’re playing a lawyer on tv today but you know the reality here is that if you want real reform if you want to have real change let’s make it apply to everyone let’s make it apply

Across the board put the unions in the reform put the developers in there they’ve been running roughshod over this community for the last 20 years and they’re not included in these so-called reforms that you bring you think the school board they put the school board in the in the reform package if you think it’s such a good idea to put the school border in there

Let’s put the judges in there and the lawyers that appear before the judges let’s put anybody who’s going to apply for a permit in any city or county in the reform but let’s make it apply to everyone let’s not create winners and losers losers based on our ordinances let’s let’s create a level playing field for everyone to have the same rules apply to them as a

Lot because you’re also a contributor what role does do contributions play in your professional life well you know doug i think the key issue here is not how much money one person is given or how much money one company’s given the key issue here is that the democratic party and the unions have created a set of rules that applies to everyone else except them and

Then they’ve created ballot language that doesn’t mention any of that to the voters and that’s the key issue here and that’s what we should talk about if i may when we started this we were under no illusion that we were going to have a lot of obstacles thrown our way by people who benefit from the system contractors lobbyists politicians and look it’s no secret

Eric you’ve you’ve maxed out contributions to every single county commissioner even the ones that don’t have opponents and and i’d be saving you money i’d be saving a lot of money by not having to do that you should be thanking but well via the other thing is again this is a bipartisan coalition we have republicans and democrats this shouldn’t be just then we’re

Going to invite the republican party to join this coalition because this is a problem across the board not just in miami-dade county but in our politics is what i’m glad one that you think i’m so powerful you know my wife would probably disagree with you but but let’s talk about something that’s really important and that’s not important what’s important is the

Long-term health of our community and i can promise you this that you can go across the country and you can look and there’s not a single community anywhere in the country where a city or counties had to file for bankruptcy because of the contract that they have with for $250,000 with a small business but there are multiple examples of cities and counties that

Have had to file for bankruptcy because of long-term pension obligations so i ask you what’s the greater corrupting influence in american government today unions or small businesses he’s mixing up this is about large county contractors he’s trying to throw a small businesses in here because he’s trying to mix up this issue we are trying to fight the appearance

Of ethical impropriety in county governor we try to restore public trust in government this isn’t about the union struggle this is about regular people having a larger voice and not just a small for you being the gatekeepers who are elected officials i’ve got one more thing to add here doug if i may just real quickly you know it’s and it’s very important to think

About we’re talking about the taxpayers here and the taxpayers are going to be on the hook for paying for the cost of the elections this is something that the unions in the democratic party are not saying in the ballot language they’re not telling the voters that they’re going to be on the hook for the cost of all this negative mail it’s filling up their mailboxes

All this negative tv ads all the negative ads on the radio it’s just wrong plain and simple and you’re not talking about campaign finance public financing does exist now for campaigns yes yes there’s an existing public finance rules and and look public financing leads the better policy outcomes okay better for new topic we’re running out of time here so we’re going

To leave it at that we will see if this makes it to the november ballot prediction will never about you say no you say yes am i correct okay we’ll see what happens juan kuba and eric sekella thanks for joining us up

Transcribed from video
ISSUES: Miami-Dade Campaign Finance Reform By South Florida PBS