Groups rake in more than $30M in statewide fight over Senate Bill 5

RELATED: Issue would raise age limit for judges

By Marc Kovac


Issue 2 campaigns raised more than $30 million in recent months in their efforts to convince voters of the pros and cons of Senate Bill 5.

We Are Ohio, the main opponent group, outpaced Building a Better Ohio, the main proponent group, in contributions and expenditures outlined in required campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state’s office Thursday.

We Are Ohio reported more than $19 million in cash contributions and about $4.6 million in in-kind contributions for the period.

The top 50 donations were from union groups and accounted for more than $18 million of the total. The Ohio Education Association gave the largest single contribution, $4.75 million, according to documents.

Big national donors included the National Labor Table ($3 million), the National Education Association ($2 million) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ($1.5 million).

We Are Ohio spent more than $17 million during the reporting period and had a remaining cash balance of about $4.3 million. The totals are in addition to the nearly $5 million in financial contributions, nearly $2 million in in-kind contributions and $2.3 million in expenditures that the group reported earlier this year.

Building a Better Ohio reported $7.6 million in cash contributions and a little more than $39,000 in in-kind contributions during the filing period. It spent close to $6 million, leaving a balance of about $1.6 million.

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 Thursday but not the total contributions provided by each.

The list included the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohioans to Protect Jobs, Partnership for Ohio’s Future, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Citizens for Accountability and Results in Education and the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.

Both sides of the Issue 2 debate also used Thursday’s campaign finance filing deadline to take swipes at the other.

Building a Better Ohio said opponents’ efforts were bankrolled by organized labor groups, including public employees forced to pay union dues.

“Opponents of Issue 2 have spent an extraordinary, perhaps historic, amount of money to defend their grip on our tax dollars,” spokesman Jason Mauk said in a released statement. “Their finance report reveals a well-funded campaign of scare tactics and deception fueled by the forced union dues of government employees.”

He added, “While we will be dramatically outspent in this contest, we’re committed to waging an aggressive effort in the closing days of the election.”

We Are Ohio said the proponent campaign was backed by out-of-state donors whose contributions were not disclosed to the public.

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