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Out-of-State Corporate Money Floods Ohio Battle Over Anti-Collective Bargaining Bill

Private interests silently support the legislation through corporate cash that promotes an agenda focused on weakening public-sector unions and privatizing state services.

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Consider the Coca-Cola Company and Wal-Mart. Both are ALEC members with a record of opposing unions. During the 2010 election, Coca-Cola donated $7,000 directly to Kasich's campaign and $10,000 to his transition fund, but the company contributed $75,000 to the RGA. Wal-Mart didn't give Kasich's campaign any money, but donated $90,000 to the RGA. According to electioneering records, the RGA used the contributions to pay Strategic Perceptions and Target Enterprises, two media placement companies, for services and attack ads against Democratic incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland.

Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart joined dozens of other private companies from far beyond Ohio in contributing a total of $5 million to a media campaign attacking Strickland and supporting Kasich, according to campaign records. Nearly $950,000 came from more than two dozen private health care companies, ranging from pharmaceutical firms to companies offering hospice services to "employee health assistance" companies. Many of the donations ranged from $10,000 to $50,000, but ALEC member Pfizer gave $75,000 and Endo Pharmaceuticals gave $90,000.

Most of these health care companies do business outside of Ohio, so why did they help the RGA attack a Democratic governor there? According to We Are Ohio spokesperson Melissa Fazekas, both Kasich and Senate Bill 5 fit into a broader agenda.

"Senate Bill 5 makes it easier for state services to be privatized," Fazekas told Truthout. "It keeps public employees from being able to come to the table and talk about the privatization of services, even if they could continue to do the job cheaper than a private industry ... Gov. Kasich has already wanted to privatize prisons, the turnpike and the lottery. There is no reason not to believe this trend won't continue."

Soon after the 2010 elections, RGA members made it clear that public employees and unions were going to be the GOP's next state-level targets, according to  media reports.  The attack on public employees may have gone too far in states like Wisconsin and Ohio, but the RGA and its corporate donors spent millions to elect Kasich, and now the RGA must protect its investment.

How SPUN! Is Spinning Ohio

In "Reasonable," the main television ad paid for by the RGA's Make Ohio Great, Governor Kasich appears in casual dress outside a Ohio farm explaining why Senate Bill 5 makes "reasonable reforms" that are in line with the values of Ohio families.

"In these tough times, many Ohio families have tightened their belts. Government has got to do the same," Kasich says amid images of firefighters and schoolchildren. "We're simply asking our government employees to pay their fair share, 10 percent of their pension and 15 percent of their health insurance - something most other Ohioans already do."

No matter that the ad fails to explicitly mention Senate Bill 5 so Make Ohio Great can hide its finances, or that progressive groups have called out Kasich for giving his own staff members  pay increases. With his approval numbers falling, the ad signals to voters that Senate Bill 5 is appropriate in tough economic times and is not an attack on Ohio's middle class, as opponents claim.

Kasich's ties to a shadowy PAC called Stop Public Unions NOW! (SPUN!), however, suggest his fundraisers may be telling donors a different story.

On March 16, just two weeks before Senate Bill 5 was made law, (SPUN!) officially entered Super PAC territory when it reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) its intention to make independent expenditures and raise unlimited funds. The treasurer of SPUN! is William Black, founder and manager of Oxford Communications LLC, an Arlington, Virginia-based firm that "specializes in direct marketing, fundraising and constituent contact" for conservative groups and  touts its work for clients like the National Republican Congressional Committee and Governor Kasich.

 
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