Cash causes campaign stir in Vail
Politics and money go hand in hand in this country, but there’s a certain level say town council where big spending is viewed as gauche.At least that’s the opinion of some current and former Vail Town Council members, as well as one of the losing candidates in the Nov. 4 election.Unprecedented campaign spending by top vote-getter Kent Logan, a retired investment banker, has some calling for the council to take up the issue of campaign finance reform at the lowest level of government.”Regardless of the level of government, I am always open to entertaining campaign reform,” says incumbent council member Greg Moffet, who was re-elected to a two-year term Tuesday with 486 votes.”Logan’s election throws the issue to light, and it concerns me because I don’t want the council to become a country club for rich guys,” adds Moffet.Logan, according to several sources, spent close to $20,000 on his campaign, although he refuses to divulge the exact amount.”I see no reason to bring it up right now,” says Logan, who was the top vote-getter with 766. “I think it’s sour grapes, and I think it’s a personal attack.”According to Vail Town Clerk Lorelei Donaldson, Logan reported spending $11,302 as of Oct. 31. All of the eight candidates have until 5 p.m., Dec. 4 to report their final spending numbers.Logan bought numerous full-page ads in the Vail Daily, which he said were needed in order to detail all of the issues on his platform. He also notes that, while he has been coming to Vail for years, he’s a newcomer on the political scene.The next biggest spender so far is incumbent Rod Slifer, a former mayor and one of Vail’s “founding fathers” in the early 1960s. Slifer tallied the second highest vote count, 708, and as of Oct. 31 reported spending $3,051.21.Slifer says that’s the approximate amount that will be on his final report. He spent the money on a reception, direct mailing piece and newspaper ads.”Kent Logan sort of set a new standard, and ran a very extensive campaign,” Slifer says, adding it may be time to look into campaign finance reform at the town level.”Well, I think it’s a discussion the council has to have,” Slifer says. “What would concern me is if a really qualified candidate who had a regular job who couldn’t really afford to, one, pay for (the campaign) themselves or, two, their contemporaries couldn’t afford it, wasn’t able to run and get elected.”I think some kind of campaign reform might be in order.”Losing candidate Mark Gordon, who was sixth with 401 votes, says Logan’s unprecedented spending was also unnecessary.”I do think that it was very interesting that the top vote-getter (Logan) spent an awful lot of dollars per vote, and the third highest vote-getter (Kim Ruotolo) spent next to nothing,” Gordon says.Ruotolo, who tallied 681 votes, reported spending no money as of Oct. 31. She says she’ll report $115 total spending by Dec. 4.”I don’t know that you need a spending cap on it,” Ruotolo says. “But I can tell you that I got the most votes per dollar spent by a long shot.”Ruotolo, a working mother, decided early on she would not spend at the same levels of other candidates.”I was concerned about it, but I felt like I would either win on my merits or not,” she says. “I didn’t want o spend a lot of money trying to convince people to pick me.”But Logan argues that spending a significant sum on his campaign shows how much he cares about he future of Vail.”Frankly, it’s a reflection of how much you want something,” Logan says. “To me, I think the town’s worth what I spent. And I think that this is a sign that the town has evolved; it is a more complicated town and the stakes are higher.”To wear it as a badge of honor that you spent nothing, I take it the other way that you didn’t care enough to get this job.”Bartender Dave McDougal, the lowest vote-getter with 167, reported spending no money as of Oct. 31. He did not return a call seeking comment.Moffet, the winning candidate with the lowest vote total, reported no campaign spending as of Oct. 31, but says the total will come in under $1,200 in the final analysis.The only incumbent to lose, Bill Jewitt, reported total contributions to his campaign committee of $551.53 and expenditure of $351.53. He did not return a call requesting comment.According to town clerk Donaldson, Jewitt is the only candidate who formed a committee and therefore could take contributions. All the other candidates, she says, spent their own money.Sybill Navas, a former council member, says she’ll bring up the issue of campaign spending limits either by amending the town charter or by adopting and ordinance at the next council meeting after the final spending reports are in.”I feel like in a community this size where we have such a disparity in incomes within a realm of educated people, when you have someone who is willing to spend that much money to get elected to town council, it doesn’t keep a level playing field.”In a local election in a community this size, I think it’s in poor taste. You ought to be elected on your own merit, not because you have the ability to buy name-splashing all over town.”Navas says higher spending might be appropriate if the town council race was a partisan election, where political parties could help with campaign costs, or if the position paid more than a nominal $500 a month.Logan, most recently the director of the equities division for Banc of America before retiring in 2000, defends his spending, but says he’s open to discussing spending limits.”I did bring it to a new level, and I think it’s a higher level about issues and not about personalities,” Logan says, adding spending limits would be acceptable to him if that’s what the voting public wants.”I hadn’t even thought of it,” Logan says. “I’m not opposed. If you want to have limits, it’s fine.”
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