Ginther waving and MI Homes logo

Andrew Ginther’s 2023 campaign for mayor seems to be driven almost entirely by developers and architects, whose campaign donations make up 48 percent of the $1 million the campaign has received this year. In total, Ginther received $485,609.69 from developers and architects just this year.

Included in the donations to the Ginther campaign is $13,700 from M/I Homes PAC, the political wing of M/I Homes of Central Ohio LLC, who own almost 700 properties in the county according to the auditor’s website, and $15,000 from Smoot Construction, a company that regularly receives contracts from the city and earned a place in Ginther’s 2020 State of the City Address.

Developers have become a focal point of anger in the city as rent prices have skyrocketed in the last few years – increasing by 27 percent in 2022 – leaving many renters without income for other necessities and driving many people from their homes. Increasing rents could be bearable in a city with strong social services, but Columbus city government has so far declined to do anything for renters and has instead passed all monetary benefits to the developers themselves. Using tax abatements, the cancellation of taxes for a certain number of years, the Columbus government has given tens of millions of dollars to developers for the luxury of providing rents too expensive for the average resident, often no less than $1,000 a month. This was shown most recently by Ginther himself at a campaign event in September at The Sinclair, a “public-private partnership” building in north Columbus whose cheapest rent option is up to $1,437 for a one-bedroom apartment. NRP Group, the builders of The Sinclair, have given the Ginther campaign $5,000 this year.

This arrangement doesn’t make much sense from a position of sensible policy – why would a city give its tax dollars to companies that are shearing the wool of its residents a bit too closely – but when looking at campaign donations the scheme becomes quite clear. Columbus city government can absolve huge companies from the one good social contribution they have to give, taxes that could go back to the residents' benefit, and city government can get those tax dollars back from those companies in the form of campaign donations to continue their perpetual hold on city politics. No need for campaigning for average people’s dollars; no need to worry about efficiently spending taxes to benefit city residents; no need to do anything really: just sit back, pass a few tax abatements to get your campaign donations, and live off of the $200,000 salary the city so generously gives to maintain that mansion in the suburb. Ginther, frankly, has it made.

But these tax abatements don’t just affect renters: they take millions away from the city’s schools, affecting every resident, homeowner or not. According to the Columbus Education Association, which is campaigning hard against these tax abatements, $51 million was lost in 2021 due to tax abatements. Ginther, whose campaign website calls the candidate a “proud product of Columbus City Schools,” either doesn’t care that schools are being sucked dry through his campaign scheme, or that home in the suburb is so comfortable that the sadness is easily manageable. Either way, his kid is in a private school, so it’s hard to tell how often the thought crosses his mind.

Even though housing has been at the top of every resident’s mind and is easily one of the top campaign issues this year, the Ginther campaign has instead decided to focus the campaign rhetoric on the tried-and-true tactic of fear-mongering about crime to secure the election. In his 30-second video posted on the front of his campaign page, crime is the only topic covered. Ginther says his job is to “make Columbus safe” while touting his funding of police, his “investing” in mental health (a favored Republican talking point when discussing gun crime), and bragging about “getting thousands of illegal guns off the streets” through gun buyback programs, which have not been shown to reduce violent crime and, even better, do not in any way guarantee the guns that are bought are “illegal.” Ginther didn’t limit his fear-mongering to his campaign website, however, as all residents have been blasted by this TV ad for the past two weeks showing how Ginther is great for these buybacks and why more cops are the answer. Why address people’s material interests when fear is always a great motivator?

Ginther, who the Dispatch accurately described as someone “working his way up the ladder,” has no real solutions to Columbus’ problems and doesn’t even seem to care to find any. This election will be his third stint as mayor and it’s hard to tell if there will be an attempt for a fourth or if there is another ring on that ladder he’s working so hard to climb. Maybe we will see a Ginther-Vance race in 2028 – there really aren’t many other Democrats in the state to be plucked up, and so far big city mayors have been a favorite. Either way, Ginther is the perfect personification of the corrupt negligence of Columbus' politics: if the last eight years don’t show where the real focus is, the campaign donations should at least show where the real loyalties lie.


***Author note: Numbers for the campaign donations are found here. This research was done by a single person and may have missed some companies that are worth including or may have included some companies that aren’t as connected to development as they seem.