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Seiler to ECOs: Cough it up!

An electioneering communication group is playing a key role in a competitive City Commission race in Fort Lauderdale. The Integrity Counts Committee has distributed ads critizing Commissioner Christine  Teel who is in a fierce battle against former police chief Bruce Roberts.

The ads -- one of which features Teel's head sticking through a slice of baloney -- try to challenge Teel's claim of being a fiscal conservative by emphasizing increases in the city's budget. The ads are insulting mudslinging or comical criticism, depending upon whom you ask.

But what's really upset city officials is that it's impossible to tell who is paying for the ads. The group is chaired by political consultant Russ Oster. City officials sent Oster a letter saying he missed deadlines to report donations. But Oster says he doesn't have to comply with the city's schedule -- only state law. And state law lets him off the hook too -- the state isn't enforcing the rules for ECOs for now due to a federal court injunction.

Oster says there is a way the city could work around that by passing an ordinance related to ECOs. That's something mayor elect Jack Seiler, who takes office March 17, says he will seek in his first year in office. Seiler said he wants to force ECOs to report contributions within five days of receiving them.

"I don't think we can completely restrict this activity but I do think we can regulate the activity to the point where it becomes unattractive to influence the outcome of elections,'' Seiler said.