Out-of-State Corporate Money Floods Ohio Battle Over Anti-Collective Bargaining Bill
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Money raised across the country is paying for the television advertisements for both sides of Issue 2, mirroring the changing landscape of elections across the country. The Supreme Court's 2010 ruling on Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission and subsequent rulings opened the doors for corporations and unions to directly spend unlimited amounts on political advocacy and electioneering, which allowed the now infamous "Super PACs" (political action committee) like Karl Rove's American Crossroads to spend millions on campaign ads benefiting Republican candidates in 2010. Governor Kasich was one such candidate. A former Lehman Brothers banker, Fox News personality and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) alumni, Kasich's campaign enjoyed support from private interests nationwide.
Fueled in part by a $1 million donation from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. that matched a $1 million donation by conservative billionaire David Koch of Koch brothers fame, the RGA spent millions of dollars on TV ads and mailers to help elect Kasich and Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Both governors quickly turned around and pushed legislation targeting public-sector workers that inspired massive protests in Madison and the ongoing veto effort in Ohio.
The RGA spent more than $11 million supporting Kasich and called itself a "key investor" in his victory. With Kasich's approval rating hovering around 40 percent and his landmark Senate Bill 5 up for a citizens' referendum, the RGA has once again swooped into Ohio to protect its investment.
The RGA is using Make Ohio Great, a nonprofit group, to run ads featuring Kasich discussing elements of Senate Bill 5, without explicitly mentioning the ballot initiative. This ensures that the group can avoid revealing its finances to state officials. Make Ohio Great and the RGA share the same address in Washington, DC, but the RGA is also keeping its finances in the dark.
Building a Better Ohio has told reporters it will identify its donors, but not donation amounts, in late October, but if major donors are its own corporate nonprofit, front groups like Make Ohio Great and the nonprofit front for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which pledged to defend Senate Bill 5, then voters will know next to nothing about who is funding the Republican campaign. Neither the RGA nor Building a Better Ohio responded to several requests for comment from Truthout.
According to its own records of Ohio's media markets, We Are Ohio told media outlets earlier this month that Building a Better Ohio and Make Ohio Great spent $2.8 million and $1.2 million on television ads respectively. We Are Ohio outspent both with $5.4 million, but a spokesperson told Truthout to "expect to see the floodgates open up from out-of-state special interests as we get closer and closer to election day."
Ohio law requires private companies to report contributions to electioneering groups and five big Ohio businesses have reported giving a total of $235,000 to Building a Better Ohio. The source of the rest of the funding for the RGA's and Building a Better Ohio's campaigning remain a mystery. By examining records from the campaign to elect Governor Kasich, however, it's possible to shine a light on the silent defenders of his controversial legislation.
RGA and ALEC
Kasich is an alumnus of ALEC, a group that brings together state legislators and corporate leaders from companies like Bayer, Pfizer, Wal-Mart, Exxon-Mobile and Koch Industries to draft model bills for state legislators seeking to advance a conservative, pro-business agenda. The Center for Media and Democracy recently exposed 800 ALEC model bills, revealing an effort to weaken unions, cut environmental regulations and privatize state services. Kasich and Republican legislators that supported Senate Bill 5 received $563,000 in campaign contributions from ALEC corporations in 2010, according to watchdog group Common Cause, but that number is much bigger when factoring in the RGA.