Campaigns about Issue 2 cost $40M

By Marc Kovac


The two sides of the heated Senate Bill 5 campaign spent a combined $40 million-plus convincing on Issue 2 last month.

We Are Ohio, the union-backed group and main opponent of the statewide issue, spent about three times as much as Building a Better Ohio, the main Issue 2 proponent group.

According to post- election campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state’s office Friday, We Are Ohio added cash contributions of about $5.8 million and in-kind contributions of nearly that much during the reporting period.

More than $4.5 million of the cash total was provided in single donations by state and national union groups, including the National Education Association ($1.4 million) and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association Local 11 ($1.2 million).

Added to early reports, that put total cash contributions at nearly $30 million and in-kind contributions at about $12 million, according to the filings.

We Are Ohio spent a little more than $29 million, including $9.4 million in the last reporting period, leaving a balance of about $730,000.

Dennis Willard, the We Are Ohio spokesman, left open the possibility that We Are Ohio would continue to exist and be involved in future issues and campaigns. He said an announcement could be made on the front early next year.

“Most campaigns — at the end of the campaign — they’re done,” he said. “But we ended this campaign, and we have over 100,000 friends on Facebook. ... We have thousands of email addresses. ... There’s this entire group out there of people who want to stay engaged. I would think that [the remaining campaign balance] is there to continue our next effort.”

Building a Better Ohio reported $3.8 million in cash contributions and $529,000 in in-kind contributions during the reporting period.

Added to earlier totals, that brought the Issue 2 proponent campaign to more than $11.4 million in cash contributions and $568,422 in in-kind contributions.

All of the cash contributions came through the campaign’s nonprofit, a setup that shields the names and donation totals of contributors in campaign- finance reports.

Building a Better Ohio voluntarily released the names of its donors Friday as it did during its filing in October. The list included Eaton Corp., the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio National Financial Services and Ohioans to Protect Jobs.

Total contributions from each donor were not provided.

Issue 2 was defeated overwhelmingly during last month’s general election, with 62 percent of voters saying “no” to the controversial public-employee collective-bargaining reforms supported by most Republican lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich. It passed in only five of Ohio’s 88 counties.

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