2015Dec02:Texas group offering money for HRO votes

By Scott Johnson - Reporter Updated: 12:00 AM, December 02, 2015


JACKSONVILLE, Fla - A group based out of Dallas wants to offer $10,000 to any Jacksonville City Council member who votes in favor of the controversial human rights ordinance being discussed by the city.

The human rights ordinance was originally proposed and failed in the city council in 2012.  It would be an ordinance that gives LBGT people a layer of protection in Jacksonville when it comes to hiring and housing. 

Mayor Lenny Curry is hosting community meetings to discuss bringing the issue back up.

The group offering the money claims it gives power back to the people by allowing them to, in essence,

buy politicians instead of rich lobbyists.

The group’s website is called Newstarter.com, a crowdfunding site where donations from the public go to fund something.

In this case $100,000 was raised to be split up 10 ways to any Jacksonville City Council members who vote in favor of the human rights ordinance. It takes 10 votes to pass the ordinance which would mean $10,000

would be paid out to each of those who voted yes.

The group’s spokesperson, David Olshansky, said that what they’re doing is not bribery and would just be considered a campaign contribution.

“It’s something that works for elites in this country, the wealthy elites. But the people don’t have access to do anything individually, but together the people have a lot of power that they can combine and get the laws they want passed,” Olshansky said. 

Olshansky said the group would be willing to crowdfund for the other side also, if there was a desire to vote down the HRO, which first failed in 2012, but he said he hasn’t seen a want to.

“We didn’t get called in. I saw a desire from several groups in the Jacksonville area and also groups that were working in Houston where their human rights ordinance just failed to add LGBT protections,” Olshansky said.

But council members agree that it’s not about the money, and wouldn’t take a payment for a vote.

“I wouldn’t accept $10,000 to vote on anything. I wouldn’t accept money to vote on anything, it’s not about money,” council member Scott Wilson said.

As far as the claim by Newstarter.com that this is not bribery, News4Jax Political Analyst Jennifer Carroll said that whether it’s a billionaire donating to a presidential candidate, or a crowdfunding donation to a City Council person, if it gets them to vote a certain way, it’s bribery.

“If these funds are being raised specifically to influence a vote of elected officials, then that is considered a bribe or coercing these individuals to do something,” Carroll said.

Carroll said if any council member did accept this donation, it could certainly bring them up on ethics violations and potential criminal charges.

Newstarter.com said that while it’s publicizing the idea, it didn’t have any contact with any members of the Jacksonville City Council.