About $35 million has flowed to political groups aiming to have an influence in Ohio’s August special election. That estimate includes money for campaigns for or against the ballot measure raising the threshold for constitutional amendments, as well as several closely aligned organizations.
Whereas that is a lot of money for an off year and middle of the summer election, that isn’t the worst of it. The part that makes it all worse is that most of the money, on both sides, is from out of state.
Furthermore, on the “yes” side of the ballot measure, the side that wants to raise the threshold to make any changes to the state Constitution, a lions share of the money came from 1 billionaire. Out of the 4.85 million raised by one of the “yes” side by the “Protect Our Constitution” committee, Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein donated a total of $4 million of it.
The right-wing megadonor owns the Uline shipping and office supply company, and his grandfather and great-grandfather ran Schlitz brewing.
Less than 14 percent of the total raised came from individual Ohio donors. Everything else was either from Uihlein or other corporate interests, some from out of state.
Over on the “no” side, things aren’t much better.
Issue 1’s opponents are fundraising through a committee going by the name of “One Person One Vote.” The campaign raised a total of $14.8 million, about 16% of it coming from Ohio donors.
The filing doesn’t show anyone giving nearly as much as Uihlein did in either the dollar amount or percentage of the total amount. Still, the campaign did have some pretty big out of state checks written to it. Karla Jurvetson, a Silicon Valley psychiatrist and philanthropist, gave about $1.1 million.
One Person One Vote also got contributions of $1 million or more from other groups including the Sixteen Thirty Fund, among the largest left-leaning dark money groups, the Tides Foundation, Ohio Education Association and the National Education Association.
Alongside its filing, One Person One vote put out a statement describing their pride for “the enormous bipartisan coalition that has come together to defeat Issue 1.”
In case one is thinking that the “no” side outraised the “yes” side, there is still another part of the fundraising story to tell in order to complete the picture. Plus, who outraised who is not the core of the problem (although it is a symptom).
There are actually four “Protect” organizations involved including Protect Women Ohio, Protect Women Ohio Action and Protect Our Kids Ohio.
When all the money is totaled, the “yes” side has a slight advantage, but again, who is winning the money race isn’t the main problem.
To back up a little, and to give some context — These organizations are chiefly concerned with defeating the reproductive rights amendment that will be on the ballot this November. But because Issue 1 will raise the threshold for that November vote, they’re also deeply invested in its approval.
So, this isn’t some “in a vacuum” vote. It isn’t an ivory tower intellectual exercise. This off year, summertime vote will have a huge influence on Ohio’s future governing decisions and the rights of the citizens of Ohio, especially and immediately the rights of Ohio women.
After Michigan passed a measure protecting women’s reproductive rights with a 56 percent majority, Ohio Republicans and conservatives made this move to block the same thing from happening in their state.
“If we move to 60% they’re not going to win in Ohio. If we win August, we win November. It’s really about that simple.” — Those are the words of Seth Drayer, the Vice President for Created Equal, when he recently warned the Delaware City Republican Club.
And like Protect Our Constitution, these allied groups are getting the vast majority of their funding from out of state.
Ohio Capitol Journal reporter Nick Evans broke down their contributions like this …
Protect Women Ohio Action is actually a 501(c)(4) based in Virginia. Five million of its $5.2 million bankroll comes from The Concord Fund, a Washington D.C. based 501(c)(4) known publicly as the Judicial Crisis Network that spends heavily in favor of conservative judges. The other $200,000 comes from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. The organization’s president is Protect Women Ohio Action’s sole board member.
Among Protect Women Ohio’s contributions is a $2 million check from Protect Women Ohio Action reported the same day The Concord Fund made a $2 million donation to the latter.
Of the groups pushing for Issue 1, Protect Women Ohio has by far the biggest piggy bank. But more than $6 million of that $9.7 million total comes from Susan B. Anthony. The only other substantial donations came from the Catholic Church. The Columbus and Cleveland Dioceses gave $200,000 each and the Cincinnati Archdiocese gave $500,000. In all, Protect Women Ohio raised about 16.3% of contributions in-state. The three donations from the Catholic Church make up more than half of that.
America’s elections are all about big money these days. And in this glaring example in Ohio, they are all about big money from out of state, and in some cases the groups aren’t even within the state. In other cases, the “organization” seems like just 1 person posing as an “organization.”
Keep in mind, one of the alleged purposes of this amendment is to keep outside special interests out of Ohio politics.
Oh, the irony (and what a sad and unfortunate irony it is).
As long as the disastrous “Citizens United” ruling dictates the loose ways we allow money to flow into politics, this will just get worse. That is the core of the problem. Politics needs to rid itself of big money, but short of that, the money should come from within the state. Allowing out of state interests dominate in this way is just a recipe for more disasters in our political arena.