Ford, TFT address campaign finance storyWritten by Toledo Free Press Staff Writers | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Federation of Teachers (TFT) and Toledo school board member Jack Ford issued respective responses to a recent Toledo Free Press analysis. The Jan. 13 cover story, “Business as Usual,” pointed out a loophole in a contested law designed to limit the monetary contributions of vendors seeking government contracts to individuals with collective bargaining authority.
In an item in the Jan. 15 TFT News Bulletin under the label “Sour Grapes,” an unidentified author wrote, “A recent story published in the Toledo Free Press alleging that TFT funneled money to non-school board candidates so that these contributions could, in turn, be given to school board candidates Jack Ford and Lisa Sobecki fell flat on its face when it published our contributions followed by the amounts that Ford and Sobecki received. Only two of the 12 candidates gave the board aspirants the same amount they received from TFT, and those were small amounts of $100.”
Ford, in a recent column in The Sojourner’s Truth, wrote, “Recently the Toledo Free Press tried to make a case that the teachers’ union orchestrated a money scheme to get funds to me and Lisa Sobecki. The problem with their article is that it was not only untrue, but also extremely misleading.”
Ford and Francine Lawrence, the TFT’s president, did not return several calls for comment before the Jan. 13 story published. Neither Ford nor the TFT identified any factual errors in the analysis. A message for TFT News Bulletin editor Mike Carr at the TFT’s offices was not returned at press time.
According to campaign finance records, the TFT contributed $2,000 each to Sobecki’s and Ford’s political candidate funds between June and October last year.
“TFT contributed $2,300 to Steve Steel and $3,110 to Teresa Fedor,” the TFT report stated. “The other candidates received $250 or less, and they all won their races. Steel returned $300 of his contribution.”
The political fund of Fedor, a former educator who was recently ousted as Ohio Senate minority leader, gave $2,500 to Sobecki and $500 to Ford, records show.
The TFT News Bulletin failed to mention a combined $790 in contributions it gave to the political candidate fund of District 47 State Rep. Peter Ujvagi.
Of the 13 individuals who received contributions from the TFT in 2007 and donated to Ford or Sobecki or both, only Toledo City Council members Michael Ashford and Lindsay Webb, Toledo Municipal Clerk of Courts Vallie Bowman-English, Sylvania City Councilman Mark Luetke and Toledo City Council candidate Marty Skeldon ran in elections last year. Bowman-English ran uncontested. Skeldon lost his bid for the District 5 seat to Republican Tom Waniewski.
“ … The Free Press article implies that a $200 contribution to Pete Gerken, for example, results in a $1,250 contribution to Sobecki and Ford. Huh? Or a $100 contribution to Joe McNamara suddenly blooms into a $730 contribution to Sobecki,” Ford wrote. “So, why the hatchet job?”
According to 2007 campaign finance reports, McNamara gave $630 to Sobecki’s campaign between June and October, and $100 Oct. 10 to Ford’s campaign.
“… The [Toledo Free Press] article questions why the Board of Elections has not chastised those politicians who supported me with contributions even though I was not endorsed by the Lucas County Democratic Party,” Ford wrote. “Well, the Board of Elections has no jurisdiction in policing a county party regarding support or non-support of candidates.”
No statement in regard to the Lucas County Board of Elections chastising politicians who donated to Ford’s campaign and not Cheryl Catlin, the Lucas County Democratic Party-endorsed candidate, ever appeared in Toledo Free Press.
The TFT newsletter also addressed the campaign finance law in question that was mentioned in the Toledo Free Press analysis, House Bill 694, which came about in the wake of the Coingate scandal involving former GOP fundraiser Tom Noe, who, among other things, was convicted of illegally funneling contributions to the 2004 re-election campaign of President George W. Bush. Though H.B. 694, known as Ohio’s “pay-to-play” law, puts a $2,000 limit on the amount labor organizations such as the TFT or their political action committees (PACs) can contribute to candidates or officeholders who would or could be the decision-making authorities in collective bargaining situations, it does not prevent those groups from channeling money through other political campaigns to bolster the coffers of union-backed candidates
Whether the TFT was subject to a $2,000 contribution limit to individual school board candidate campaigns remains to be seen because Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge John Bender struck down H.B. 694 in December. Bender ruled the law was unconstitutional because an erroneous version of the bill filed with the secretary of state did not match the version the General Assembly passed in December 2006.
Bender issued a stay regarding labor provisions in the law, meaning they are not enforceable until a final ruling in the case is issued.
Jeff Ortega, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, said, “We’re telling people to operate as if the law is in effect.”
Jim Gravelle, spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, said Dann’s office would decide whether to appeal Bender’s ruling once Bender issues his final order in the case.
The law “has been ruled unconstitutional but is on appeal by Republicans,” the TFT report stated.
Brunner and Dann are both Democrats.