AfD Victory in Ohio Election Case
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6-year-long Resnick case finally ends

Tuesday, December 26, 2006
John McCarthy
Associated Press

Columbus - State Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick was elected to her last six-year term in 2000. Lawyers, elections officials and others served her six-year term as well.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce decided to drop its appeal last week of a ruling by the Ohio Elections Commission that its onetime political arm, Citizens for a Strong Ohio, illegally campaigned against Resnick six years ago.

Citizens for a Strong Ohio called itself an issue advocacy group, free from elections laws that require political action committees to fully disclose their activities, such as disclosing names of contributors and the amount they give. Yet its TV ads so clearly targeted Resnick that the elections commission found the group had crossed the line into partisan politics.

The group's ads targeting Resnick began running in the early fall of 2000. The ads implied that Resnick was for sale.

One ad featured a lady justice figure lifting her blindfold as money was placed on one of the scales of justice. Another portrayed a female judge changing her vote as bags of money were piled on her desk. The chamber group claimed Resnick voted 70 percent of the time with lawyer-contributors.

Resnick, a Democrat, had caught the wrath of pro-business groups for her votes on insurance, workers' compensation and in other cases. The ads drew the attention of two nonprofit reform groups: Common Cause and the Alliance for Democracy.

Both filed complaints against Citizens for a Strong Ohio before the election, which Resnick won with 57 percent of the vote.

The fight dragged out for six years, ending less than two weeks before the end of Resnick's term on Jan. 1. Veteran elections lawyer Cliff Arnebeck, who represented the Alliance for Democracy, said the long battle was worth it.

"We had to fight to get the chamber to adhere to the same law everybody has to adhere to. It's important when large entities are held accountable," Arnebeck said.

William Todd, a longtime lawyer who mostly represents Republican causes, came on board with Citizens for a Strong Ohio early in the case. Todd tried to make the case that advocacy advertising is a form of free speech and shouldn't be subjected to campaign law.

© 2006 The Plain Dealer
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