SB 5 foes take command in TV advertising campaign


Money spent by We Are Ohio in the Youngstown media market for television ads in its campaign against Issue 2*:

TV station/We Are Ohio ad buys

WKBN-TV 27: $114,650

WYTV 33: $49,020

21 WFMJ-TV: $116,000

WYFX 17/62: $23,040

*The groups Building a Better Ohio and Make Ohio Great have spent nothing in the local market

By Laura A. Bischoff

Dayton Daily News


The television ad war being waged statewide over Issue 2 appears to be lopsided in favor of the union-backed group seeking to defeat the collective- bargaining reforms targeted at more than 350,000 public workers.

We Are Ohio, the anti-Senate Bill 5 group, appears to be outspending Building a Better Ohio, a business and Republican-backed group, by a 5-to-2 ratio, according to files kept by 17 television stations across the state.

Through Oct. 13, We Are Ohio has plunked down more than $1.92 million for television ads in Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Youngstown, while Building a Better Ohio, the group supporting Senate Bill 5, has spent more than $741,000 for TV ad time.

Make Ohio Great, which is funded by the Republican Governors Association, bought $441,000 in those same media markets to run ads featuring Gov. John Kasich advocating for “reasonable reforms” without specifically campaigning for Issue 2.

The numbers were compiled by a consortium of newspapers that includes the Dayton Daily News, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, The Columbus Dispatch, The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Vindicator. They do not include the Akron and Toledo markets and give only a partial read on the Columbus and Cleveland markets.

We Are Ohio said its tracking of TV ad buys in all Ohio’s media markets shows a total of $9.4 mil- lion spent so far: $5.4 million by We Are Ohio, $2.8 million by Building a Better Ohio, and $1.2 million by Make Ohio Great.

“We are spending a significant amount of money on the airwaves,” said Melissa Fazekas, spokeswoman for We Are Ohio. She added, “But we do think we’ll be outspent at the end of the day.”

Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, said, “It is a policy that we do not discuss our ad strategy so I really can’t comment on the extent of our statewide buy.” He also said he expects his side will be outspent.

A referendum on Senate Bill 5 will appear on the statewide ballot as Issue 2. A no vote is to reject the collective-bargaining reforms; a yes vote is to keep the changes.

SB 5 would outlaw strikes by public employees, institute a merit-pay system, allow management to impose its last offer on a three-year contract if the two sides reach impasse, require workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health-care premiums and 10 percent of their wages toward their pensions, mandate that seniority no longer be the sole factor in determining who gets laid off, and prohibit bargaining on issues such as grievances, promotions, and minimum-staffing rules.

Television stations are required to publicly disclose advertising buys for candidate campaigns but not for issue campaigns.

As a result, four stations opted not to reveal the buys while 17 stations voluntarily disclosed data to reporters.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, who is backing We Are Ohio, said issue campaigns historically come down to television ads.

Although We Are Ohio has spent more so far, Redfern said he expects a great deal of corporate money will flow in to pay for a last-ditch push by Building a Better Ohio in this campaign.

Federal elections law allows 501(c)4 groups to collect unlimited, undisclosed donations as long as a majority is spent on their primary mission and not on electioneering.

Contributors: Columbus Dispatch reporter Alex Stuckey, Dayton Daily News reporter Joanne Huist Smith, Youngstown Vindicator politics writer David Skolnick, Plain Dealer reporter Henry Gomez, and Cincinnati Enquirer reporters Howard Wilkinson, John Kiesewetter, and Amanda Seitz.

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