Tuesday, August 01, 2000

Holcomb's war chest becomes issue

Gattermeyer called upon to reject '2 Percent Club' funds

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — When Butler County Prosecutor John F. Holcomb died July 22, he left behind a substantial re-election fund, generated mostly from the so-called “2 Percent Club” — his own employees donating about 2 percent of their salaries.

        On Monday, Robin Piper, the Republican candidate for Butler County prosecutor, called on Acting Prosecutor Dan Gattermeyer to refuse to use this method of fund-raising — and to ask the contributors where the money should go.

        “The 2 Percent Club has passed away (with Mr. Holcomb's death). It is no longer in existence,” Mr. Piper said. “And I would like to invite my opponent to come forward and show the people of Butler County that he will make tough decisions — and that he will not reinstitute the 2 percent tax on public employees.”

        Mr. Piper, who has spoken out against the 2 Percent Club, said he thinks the money should be returned to the contributors or could perhaps be placed in a scholarship fund in Mr. Holcomb's memory.

        Mr. Gattermeyer, who is expected to be officially chosen tonightas the Butler Democrats' choice to oppose Mr. Piper, wouldn't take a stand Monday on the 2 Percent Club. He said it was premature to comment on the issue until the party takes action and until he sets up his campaign committee.

        But Mr. Gattermeyer did say he anticipates that Mr. Holcomb's war chest, which stood at $164,000 in April, will be transferred to his election effort. In contrast, Mr. Piper's fund had a balance of about $3,800 in mid-April.

        Mr. Piper said Ohio law allows the treasurer of the candidate's campaign committee to decide how to distribute the funds. Mary Sue Predit, Mr. Holcomb's longtime office administrator, therefore controls the purse strings, Mr. Gattermeyer said. He said he's certain that Mrs. Predit would allocate the funds in accordance with Ohio law and Mr. Holcomb's wishes — and he expects that the money would therefore go to him.

        Mr. Piper, however, noted that Mr. Holcomb rarely gave money to other political candidates — and when he did, the amounts were small. Therefore, Mr. Piper said, it would be wrong for Mr. Gattermeyer to accept the money — and such acceptance would symbolize Mr. Gatter meyer's approval of the 2 Percent Club fund-raising tactic.

        “I'm sure that Robin Piper would like to see me run a campaign without any money,” said Mr. Gattermeyer, who was a top contributor to the 2 Percent Club. He gave $1,850 to Mr. Holcomb's re-election fund in 1998.

        Mr. Piper, who said he felt uncomfortable contributing the 2 percent for more than a dozen years while he worked for Mr. Holcomb, retorted: “I just want a level playing field.”


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