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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Limit campaign contributions in St. Petersburg City Council elections? Nah.



Is there too much money in St. Petersburg city politics? 

Several city council members said Thursday they thought there was. Still, a proposal by council member Darden Rice to lower the cap on individual campaign contributions from $1,000 to $500 died on the vine.

Rice argued that, although case law on the subject was unclear, the city should seize a "leadership opportunity" and lower the cap.

She acknowledged the irony of taking the lead on the issue. When Rice was elected to city council in 2013, she broke a fundraising record for city council elections, netting nearly $120,000.

She wasn't pulling the ladder up behind her, RIce said. But the influx of money into local politics was "just gross," and gave an unfair advantage to incumbents.

Her colleagues showed some sympathy, but quickly poked holes in her argument. Jim Kennedy pointed out that state law prohibited the city from limiting political action committee or party contributions, giving an advantage to politicians with party ties. 

Wengay Newton said candidates with "higher aspirations" for their political careers are often judged by how much money they can raise while in municipal office. Limiting contributions would hamstring a local politicians ability to get to Tallahassee or Washington, he suggested.

Newton is running to replace term-limited Democrat Rep. Darryl Rouson in the state Legislature. 

Bill Dudley said individuals with a lot of "passion" showed be allowed to contribute as much as they want to their favored candidate.

After a brief discussion, the council, meeting as a Committee of the Whole, let her idea die on the table. 

[Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2015 9:42am]


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