Kowalski dampens on prospect of campaign contribution rule changes

by Michele Collins

Hudson City Council member Nicole Kowalski faced a second failed attempt to change the city’s campaign finance law, when council voted down her proposed legislation at the May 3 council meeting. She now believes that with the current make-up of the city council, such legislation will never be passed.

“I set out to level the playing field for people who run for office in Hudson,” she said. “I knew how difficult it was for me to raise money for my campaign, and I just wanted to make it fair for everyone.”

As the ordinance is currently written, there is a limit of $100 donation per individual or company. With such a low limit, Kowalski argues, raising the necessary funds to run a competitive campaign is difficult. She estimates candidates have to raise $5,000-$15,000.

That takes a lot of time and a lot of donors.

“I believe the current ordinance dissuades anyone from running for office who cannot self-finance their campaign,” she said.

What’s more, according to Kowalski, penalties for violation of the current ordinance are non-existent or seldomly enforced.

“If a candidate would accept a donation over that amount, they would be charged a $100 penalty,” she said. “So if for example, someone accepted a $1,000 donation, they would be penalized $100, and still end up with $900 towards their campaign.

In addition, Kowalski said candidates can get around the contribution limit by taking money from political action committees, more commonly know as PACs or super PACs, which can donate large sums of money and create an unlevel playing field. In the last general election, she said, unknown Super PAC donated $75,000 to help a slate of Hudson candidates.

“This super PAC paid for several direct mail postcards to benefit three candidates, and two negative postcards against me,” she stated. 

Her latest attempt to change the rules sought to repeal Chapter 226, “Campaign Finance Reform,” of Hudson’s codified ordinances. That legislation failed 5-2. ∞