Monday, April 18, 2005

City Clerk's Office, Candidates and Citizens Confused about Campaign Finance Reporting

If The Red state is confused they are not alone. So is the City Clerk’s Office, the candidates and any citizen of San Antonio that has tried to make sense of the current system. The Red State is correct in the assumptions regarding what actually constitutes the current protocols for “electronic” filing. Rumor around City Hall was the Clerk’s searchable database would be up and running last Friday, but I’m not holding my breath.

Technological SNAFU’s happen. What is more disturbing is all the exceptions made to the rule.

First, why make exceptions for people that don’t know how to use a computer? Geez, this is 2005 not 1981. College professors demand that every 18 year old in class use a computer. Surely we should demand no less from our “adult” elected officials. Besides, how are they going to operate that swanky zillion-dollar Industrial Light and Magic show in the recently refurbished City Council Chamber?

Second, why make exceptions for candidates with less than $20,000 to report? My banker makes me balance my books even when my account falls below $20,000, (which it invariably does) why shouldn’t the candidates have to present their balanced books? If their presumption is that $20,000 is an insufficient amount to compromise the integrity of a Council Member, I refer them to recent events. Our Council members have sold their votes on million dollar contracts for as little as $200 and said “thank you” on tape to the hand offering the bribe. In the Roaring Twenties, when such activity was the modus operandi, the going rate was 30% of the value of the contract to be fixed. Our politicians are even incompetent crooks.

Third, of 38 candidates running for Council seats, only 7 raised more than $20,000. Of course, these are the 7 most likely to win virtually unchallenged, but what kind of reporting system is it that allows 31 out of 38 candidates to opt out? Now some of the little guys did report their pittances, but the point is they don’t have to.

A cynic might wonder, given the current fiasco with campaign finance reporting, whether the present system was designed to facilitate opacity rather than transparency.

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