Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason’s campaign finance reform panel has picked up a new member — Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Chair Jeff Hastings. At its inaugural meeting last Thursday, the group also discussed adding a few more members for the sake of racial diversity (former Cleveland law director Subodh Chandra was mentioned as a possible candidate). Mason, who appointed the panel, will get the final say on any new additions.

Despite public criticism over Mason’s control of the panel, the prosecutor expressed his desire to fix a campaign finance system that he’s benefited from in the past. The group seems intent on tackling the issue that political opponents have hung around Mason’s neck: employee contributions to officeholders’ campaigns.

The group’s most reachable goal may be electronic filing/online disclosure of campaign finances. Their most ambitious goal is to propose a model for public funding of campaigns. Either way, the panel can only make recommendations to the future county executive and county council.

The panel is mostly made of good-government activists, some intent on lessening the influence of corporate money on elections. But panelist Don Scipione, who served as treasurer for last fall’s successful Issue 6 campaign, offered a sobering take on the benefits of big-money contributions (the local business community bolstered the Issue 6 campaign).

“You get to see [the money] firsthand,” Scipione told the other panelists. “It’s impressive. You’re happy to get it because you need it to win.”

There was some discussion of holding meetings at times and places that more citizens could attend, but Mason announced that he’d already determined that the next meeting would be at 9 a.m. Thursday, April 1, on the first floor of the Justice Center. — Damian Guevara

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