From local city and town council and school committee elections to the battle for the White House, fundraising has become an important element for many campaigns.
Having an adequate “war chest” allows candidates to spend money on everything from advertising and political signs to campaign staff. We have seen in past elections where even council candidates in Newport, have raised significant funds and hired staff to help in their election campaigns.
But unlike past years, a city council candidate and incumbent councilperson, Kathryn Leonard, has taken issue with us even reporting on campaign funds, as the candidates reported, as required, to the state Board of Elections. These are public records.
As a journalist of more than four decades, I have written about campaign finance countless times. Never, before now, has anyone questioned the importance of reporting on campaign fundraising. Nor has anyone in the media questioned the efficacy of reporting on campaign finances, until now.
Absurb!!! A local radio talk show host apparently also was critical of reporting the public record. Not only absurd, perhaps journalistic malpractice.
G. Alexander Heard, famous for his analysis of campaign finance, called campaign finance “the costs of democracy.”
How much money a candidate has in his or her account has little to do with whether they are honorable, well meaning. A robust account could demonstrate the strength of a candidate, the breadth of their support … or … a list of those people or organizations that hope to influence that candidate once elected. We also learn a lot about a candidate from his or her expenditures.
According to the state Board of Elections campaign funds can be used for campaign related expenses, donated to other candidates, donated to charity, or returned to donors.
Joseph Calabrese in an article for USC Annenberg Media two years ago said “Political candidates accept money from citizens, corporations, and political action committees. Knowing who is giving money to whom can tell you a lot…”
What makes this reaction from this candidate, a supporter of hers and a local radio talk show host is it is one more assault on the media doing its legitimate job. For whatever reason, this candidate apparently does not want people to have a look at her campaign finances, and so decides to attack the legitimacy of the media.
For the record, the story did not even explore the sources of donations or expenditures, but merely listed information contained in the latest campaign finance report, due by August 11 for primary election candidates. We not only printed this individual’s numbers, but for all Newport council candidates. We singled out no one. No comments, no agenda, just basically a listing of the funds available, and commentary on what a candidate can do with those funds.
I promise you we will continue to report on campaign finances, using as our resource the public records from the state Board of Elections.
If you wish to research the campaign finances of any candidates, you can visit the Board of Elections campaign finance site at: http://www.ricampaignfinance.com/RIPublic/Filings.aspx