A sign urging Clevelanders to vote no on Issue 38, the participatory budgeting amendment, outside Frederick Douglass Recreation Center.
A sign urging Clevelanders to vote no on Issue 38, the participatory budgeting amendment, outside Frederick Douglass Recreation Center. Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

Cleveland City Council is funding its campaign against Issue 38 with donations from real estate developers, the owners of the Cleveland Browns and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s business empire. 

The People’s Budget campaign relied on substantial in-kind help from the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, a progressive nonprofit. 

Political action committees on both sides of the issue filed initial, unaudited campaign financial disclosures with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections by Thursday’s deadline. 

The charter amendment on November’s ballot would set aside $14 million, equal to 2% of the city’s General Fund budget, to be spent according to a system of neighborhood-level votes. Backers pitch the measure as a way to bring direct democracy to the city budget. Opponents warn it will sap limited taxpayer resources. 

Businesses, Haslams give to council’s no-on-38 effort

The Council Leadership Fund, a political action committee controlled by the council president, raised about $95,500 in September and October. 

The leadership fund reported a few donations of almost $15,500, the maximum allowed under state campaign finance rules. 

One came from a political action committee affiliated with Rock Holdings, the parent company of such Gilbert ventures as Quicken Loans. Another max donation came from attorney Jon Pinney and TurnDev, the development firm where he is a managing partner. 

Jay Lucarelli, the CEO of MinuteMen Staffing, also gave the maximum amount. Four members of the Haslam family, including Browns owners Jimmy and Dee, split a $15,500 donation. 

The council president’s PAC also brought in $10,000 from David Heller, the CEO of developer NRP Group, and $7,500 from the union Laborers Local 860. 

The leadership fund spent more than $65,000 over roughly the last month, largely on mailers and billboards. 

Progressive nonprofit lends a hand to PB campaign

The People’s Budget Cleveland Committee, the PAC supporting Issue 38, reported raising $20,000 in cash. Half of that money was given by the nonprofit Cleveland Owns, a backer of the participatory budgeting effort that was co-founded by PB organizer Jonathan Welle. 

The rest of the contributions ranged from a few dollars to $2,100. A few former candidates chipped in. Ayat Amin, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in Ward 3, gave about $1,500 from her campaign committee. Former 2021 mayoral candidate Ross DiBello gave $50. 

The committee received another $92,000 in in-kind services. The Ohio Organizing Collaborative provided most of that. The nonprofit lent staff to the campaign and spent $59,000 on mailers. 

The People’s Budget PAC spent almost $9,000 of its own money, much of it for printing, t-shirts and yard signs. 

This week’s filings cover spending up until Oct. 18, just before both campaigns make their final push for votes. The PACs will reveal their down-to-the-wire raising and spending after the election. 

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.