By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS — U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur is asking politicians to do something that doesn’t come naturally to many – stop spending money, voluntarily.
Miss Kaptur (D., Toledo), at a news conference here yesterday, introduced a voluntary pledge she is asking all statewide candidates to take, restricting the money they would spend in campaigns, stopping negative ads, and limiting so-called “soft money.”
“This is the most important issue we face in this country today,” she said. “It is so critical that we stop these unreasonable amounts of spending.”
Under the Kaptur pledge, candidates would agree to spend no more than either three times the salary of the position they are running for, or the average amount spent by all candidates for that office in the last 10 years.
They’d also agree to limit soft money – unregulated money from corporations, labor organizations, and wealthy individuals – to one-third of what candidates for that office have spent in the last decade.
After years of failed attempts at campaign finance reform in Washington, the time is right to take reform to the state level, Miss Kaptur said.
“Our state capitals have the ability to be in the lead on this issue, and I hope our candidates for public office will do their part,” she said.
Statewide candidates running in Ohio this fall did not seem to leap at the chance to take the pledge and restrict their own spending levels.
“We will spend money within the federal laws,” said Caryn Candisky, spokeswoman for the Senate campaign of Republican George Voinovich, declining to accept the tougher restrictions of Miss Kaptur’s proposal.
Governor Voinovich’s Democratic challenger, Mary Boyle, will consider taking the pledge, said her spokesman, Steve Fought. “Marcy’s made a great contribution to the debate,” said Mr. Fought, who last year was Miss Kaptur’s press secretary.
Brett Buerck, spokesman for the gubernatorial campaign of Republican Bob Taft, said he would want to wait a few years to see how current campaign finance reforms fare before considering adopting any new ones.
Lee Fisher, Mr. Taft’s challenger, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Among other parts of the Kaptur pledge: a promise to avoid all negative advertising; electronic disclosure of all campaign contributions, and support of free TV airtime for all candidates.
Miss Kaptur said she will be taking the pledge to individual candidates in the coming months, as well as to the editorial boards of the state’s newspapers, which routinely interview all candidates for major office to determine who will get endorsements.