Follow the money

. July 2, 2013.

‘Tis summer, dear readers, when a young lover’s thoughts turn to cold, hard cash. As in, who has it, what did they do with it, and what might they do with ours?

Yup, the campaign season is usually pretty tranquil during the doggie days, so those of us with our nose in it look for any sign, however faint, of what the election might hold come the hurry-up time after Labor Day. One sure-fire bet is to follow the money.

I’ll show you mine
The simplest form of this traditional wisdom relates to the series of campaign finance filing deadlines. Campaigns must ‘fess up periodically to how much they’ve raised, from whom, and where they have spent it so far. The public scrutiny of the size of the campaign coffers supposedly reveals campaign support and strength, and candidates fret over this stuff like a junior high kid in gym class. Is mine big enough? Is his bigger than mine? Whose is more impressive?

In the race for Toledo mayor, the Big Four candidates have been beating the bushes trying to scare up ducats to build up their war chests — and the source of the funds is rather telling. With the finance report still to be released, here are some peerless predictions. Hizzoner Michael P. Bellbottoms, as the incumbent, has the advantage of being the current officeholder, so his support will most likely come from contractors and others currently doing business with the city who stand to lose if he does, as well as his current top level employees who benefit from sitting at his right hand. Plus, he’ll keep his long standing Republican support, since there are no credible Rs in the race and this lifelong D will run as an Independent.
Joe McNamara has had trouble with fundraising throughout his political career, but never fear! He has a large trust fund on which to draw, and he mostly self-funds his campaigns. Anita Lopez, having been in three different elected positions, has wide support and has garnered the support of most labor unions in town, as well as much of the leadership of the Democratic Party. As the incumbent county auditor she also has large property holders in her corner.  D. Michael Collins will have to skirt the margins of all the support already sucked up by the other three, and will probably have to rely largely on his own funds rather than raise them from other sources.

Notice what these funding sources mean about the race.  Bellbottoms relies on nepotistic largesse and flip flopping over his party affiliation for support. Joe Mac relies on his narcissistic self-absorption for funds. “Stepping Stone” Lopez will call in her political chips. D. Mike will be off on the fringes gazing at his own bellybutton.

Are you experienced?
Then there are personal finances, also very descriptive of the candidates. Bellbottoms and D. Mike have excellent credit ratings and little debt. Little wonder, since both of them are double dipping from public salaries and public pensions and have household incomes pushing two hundred large. Joe Mac, he of the trust fund, earns over one third of his income from dividends. Anita, who grew up on the hard scrabble South End, has the largest debt and lowest credit rating. Of course, much of that debt consists of student loans from having to put herself through college and law school, and most of the rest are house and car notes. You know, the stuff most Average Joes and Janes deal with regularly.

If we really want to assess the candidates, we could look at something more important, like what these folks have  actually done with fiscal oversight while in elected office. Collins has regularly voted against City budgets, no matter how much they have been tweaked, showing an inability to compromise with other decision makers. McNamara has never been in an administrative position and has thus never had to run an office. That leaves Lopez and Bellbottoms.

Anita has been on the school board and has overseen the offices of county recorder and auditor. She has successfully negotiated labor contracts, prepared and administered her budgets, and worked with her top staff as well as other elected officials. Bellbottoms has riled unions by unilaterally annulling and imposing contracts and supporting SB5, botched the administration of millions in federal funds through his Neighborhoods Department and now owes the Feds a refund, had to fire or demote top employees in Neighborhoods and Economic Development that he appointed, including his own Deputy Mayor, and has told City Council their job is to say “yes” to him.

Whose is more impressive?