Legislators are told all political groups should have to list
With the 2004 election over, state legislators resumed hearings yesterday on
Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer told the House State Government Committee that
he would like to "remove the taint of secretive campaign donations."
"The General Assembly should make it clear that any entity that is not
affiliated with a candidate should be required to report the same information as
reported by the candidateÄôs committee," Moyer testified.
In this yearÄôs Supreme Court campaigns, Citizens for a Strong Ohio, a
political arm of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, reported raising nearly $3
million to support Republican judicial candidates.
The GOP won four Supreme Court races, placing Republicans in six of seven
seats on the stateÄôs highest court.
Citizens for a Strong Ohio has been designated a 501(c)(4) organization under
the Internal Revenue Code. Because it does not directly advocate the election or
defeat of political candidates, it has argued in court that it should not have
to disclose names of contributors as political-action committees must under
state and federal laws.
Among this yearÄôs leading contributors were the U.S. Chamber Institute for
Legal Reform, $1 million; the American Insurance Association, $375,000;
Nationwide Insurance, $200,000; and Procter & Gamble, $160,000.
Clifford O. Arnebeck Jr., a Columbus lawyer representing the Alliance for
Democracy, said passage of Senate Bill 214 would have blocked "over $3 million
in illegal corporate advertising" in the Supreme Court races.
Arnebeck said the chamberÄôs continued success in collecting corporate
contributions probably intimidated other issue-advocacy groups this year. "The
opposition backs off," he said.
Meanwhile, a study released Wednesday by the Brennan Study for Justice found
that Ohio topped all other states this year in televised Supreme Court
advertising, with more than $6.4 million spent. OhioÄôs record had been $5.4
million in 2002.
The Brennan Center, located at New York University School of Law, found that
total spending on television advertising in state Supreme Court elections
surpassed $19 million this year, a 77 percent increase over the $10.7 million
spent in 2000 and more than twice the $8.4 million spent in 2002. A record
amount for a single week Äî more than $7 million Äî was spent from Oct. 25 through
Sunday, according to the study.
Rep. Kevin DeWine, R-Fairborn, said the committee would hold hearings several
times a week "until we get it right."
DeWine said itÄôs still uncertain whether legislators will require greater
disclosure of contributions and expenditures involving countiesÄô state-candidate
funds and operating accounts.
The latest draft of Senate Bill 214 eliminates proposed limits on
contributions to ballot issues by corporations, nonprofit groups and labor
organizations, as well as some proposed fines.
Separately, Moyer said it would be announced soon whether Supreme Court
justices would recuse themselves from the case against the chamber seeking
disclosure of contributions in the 2000 campaign. More than $4 million was spent
on a negative ad campaign to defeat Justice Alice Robie Resnick, a Democrat who
On Sept. 30, the Franklin County Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the
list of donors who bankrolled the controversial campaign ads against Resnick
should be made public.
The chamber contends that Citizens for a Strong Ohio is merely an advocate
for issues, not any candidate, and performs an educational function protected by
the First Amendment that is not subject to OhioÄôs campaign-finance laws.
Part of the 2000 ad campaign was titled, "Is Justice for Sale?" It featured
cash being piled on the scales of justice. Another ad featured a blindfolded
Last November, Judge John Bender of Franklin County Common Pleas Court gave
the chamber two weeks to reveal the names of donors or face $25,000 daily
sanctions. The fine was not imposed pending appeal.