[Full disclosure: As this article was going to publication, the author was applying for employment with the incoming mayor's administration. -- eds.]
Over pizza and sodas in a city hall conference room on Monday night, November 10, the city's Citizen Campaign Commission took testimony from former candidates Charles Lewis and Amanda Fritz. The pair, who used public financing to run for a seat on the city council, had plenty to say about the program. The two were even able to get in some subtle jabs at their opponents.
Lewis urged the commission to consider stricter punishment for candidates who run afoul of even the smallest rules. In his estimation, three candidates should have been kicked out of the public financing program early in the primary season; he didn't name names, but he ticked off the offenses, including two who went into the red before collecting seed money or the program's required $5 contributions. "They absolutely should have been kicked out and encouraged to run again next time," Lewis wrote in the commission's questionnaire.
Lewis also asked the commission to consider raising the number of signatures and $5 contributions required at the outset, from 1,000 to "perhaps up to" 2,000. "Basically, every serious candidate who tried to qualify did. I believe that it should be a little harder to qualify."
Fritz—who qualified for public funds when she ran in 2006, and won this time around, which she noted with a smiley face on her questionnaire—doesn't think the number of contributions should be increased. But she had an idea: "Perhaps $5 donors should only be allowed to give to one candidate per position, to ensure that only candidates with real community support are able to qualify."
Her other big suggestion was a knock on Lewis, whom Fritz criticized in September 2007 for a "troubling" mailer. She wrote on her blog at the time that Lewis appeared "to have used the list of people who donated to my campaign, to send a letter asking for $5 contributions for his. Several of my supporters have contacted me, asking if I support Charles Lewis. The answer is no."
Her suggestion to the commission? Candidates using public financing should use a disclaimer, saying something like, "I am writing to/calling you because you donated to Candidate X's campaign in 200X. I found your name and address by a public records search and I am not endorsed by Candidate X," Fritz suggested. One commission member pointed out that privately financed candidates troll public records to find potential donors, and don't have to proclaim that in their solicitations.
All criticism aside, both candidates reiterated their support of the program. "We really need to celebrate that this has been a good round," Fritz said, while also pledging to "lead the campaign to pass the referral" when the system is sent to voters for their approval in 2010.