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Mayor proposed limit on campaign spending
Nov 04, 2005 12:00 am
November 1, 2005
Hours after winning the most expensive election in Lebanon history, Mayor Don Fox said he hopes to see limits imposed on the cost of seeking city office.
And while state election commission officials cautioned any plan to rein in the cost of city elections may face legal hurdles, at least one local state lawmaker was receptive to the idea.
State Rep. Stratton Bone said he would be willing to introduce a private act in the Tennessee General Assembly on behalf of the city should Fox and Council decide to act on the issue.
Bone also expressed concern about the cost of seeking office locally, voicing his agreement with Fox, who during the election termed the cost of the mayoral race "ridiculous."
"Whether it's that race or another, we're seeing entirely too much money spent on these races," Bone said. "I'd certainly be in favor of doing something to limit the costs of these elections."
Bone said if the city tackles campaign finance reform and emerges with a measure requiring a private act, he would serve as its sponsor.
"If the Council brings us something, we'll introduce it for them," he said. "That's the way we've always done it."
Fox raised nearly $56,000 for his third re-election campaign while his main challenger, Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer, raised $104,000, the two combining to shatter previous fund-raising and expenditure records in city elections.
Fox, who mentioned a cap on local campaign spending during an election night radio interview, said Monday he would favor seeking a measure capping campaign contributions in addition to campaign spending.
"The bottom line is that I don't think that anybody likes bought-and-paid-for elections," Fox said. "You end that by limiting all that PAC (Political Action Committee) money and limiting all the money that comes from blocks and (political) machines."
The next step is to convene a work session with the new City Council to discuss ways to tighten up Lebanon's campaign finance laws, Fox said.
Fox said he hopes to get two-thirds of the City Council to agree to a proposal that could be introduced via private act.
A state election commission official noted although courts have upheld limits on campaign contributions, they generally tread more lightly when it comes to regulating expenditures, regarding those as constitutionally protected forms of free speech.
But Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Executive Director Drew Rawlins noted at least one local government in the state has already adopted a measure aimed at limiting the cost of seeking office.
In 2000, the state Legislature passed an act granting Knox County permission to more tightly regulate its own campaign expenditures. The law "applies to the Knox County Election Commission for any municipal election," Rawlins said.
"It basically gives them the right to impose more strict requirements than what's in the (statewide) campaign financial disclosure law," he said. "We would probably have to have a statute like that in Lebanon to allow them to place in the statute more restrictive campaign finance laws."
Staff Writer Jared Allen can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15.