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Ohio fails in study on funds for campaigns



Published: Thu, September 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ohio fails instudy on fundsfor campaigns

Ohio is one of four states that permit political parties to receive unlimited anonymous contributions.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

WASHINGTON -- A national government and ethics watchdog group gives Ohio a failing grade for its policies on requiring state-level political party organizations to disclose campaign finances.

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., lists Ohio among the 24 states it considers failures when it comes to keeping the public informed of state party campaign activity.

The study, which took three months to complete, found loopholes, widely divergent reporting standards and weak enforcement allowing millions of dollars in political contributions and expenditures at the state level to go undisclosed to the public. State parties raised more than $570 million in the 2000 election cycle.

In the minority

Ohio, along with Alaska, Michigan and South Carolina, has state election rules that permit political parties to maintain financial accounts where unlimited donations can be received with no public disclosure.

The state Legislature is expected to consider legislation, recently introduced in the state Senate, to close that loophole.

Ohio received a score of 57 out of a possible 100 points, ranking the state 28th in the country in terms of having the best financial disclosure policies. Any grade below 60 points is considered failing, according to the center's survey.

The state did poorly in the categories of reporting contributions and filing requirements.

Ohio does not require all party committee contributions to be reported, does not require donors to list their occupations or employers, does not have a year-to-date aggregate for each contributor, does not require late contributions or expenditures to be reported, and does not publish a list of delinquent filers.

Good scores

The state scored well, in the center's report, on public access and enforcement. The state has auditing authority, it routinely reviews filings for accuracy, has a penalty for missing filing deadlines, and allows people to download reports from the Internet.

Pennsylvania scored significantly better than Ohio, getting a score of 76 points, placing it 12th best among the 50 states. A score between 60 to 79 is considered barely passing by the center.

Pennsylvania fared well in the categories of reporting expenditures, public access and enforcement. The state requires all party committees' expenditures and contributions to be reported, donors to report their occupations, allows people to download reports from the Internet, and has auditing authority, the center report states.

Pennsylvania's deficiencies include no year-to-date aggregate for each contributor, no penalty for filing an incomplete report, no requirement for late reports, and does not require committees to list the names of candidates to whom they give in-kind contributions, the report states.

skolnick@vindy.com




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