COLUMBUS— State Reps. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) and Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) testified Thursday before the House Government Oversight Committee on sweeping anti-corruption legislation. The Ohio Anti-Corruption Act would require dark money groups to identify their contributors and disclose their spending. First introduced nearly three years ago, the legislation responds to the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history and news that experts rank Ohio as the top state for public corruption.
“The Ohio Anti-Corruption Act is founded on the premise that Ohioans deserve to know who influences their elections,” said Rep. Sweeney. “The sponsors of House Joint Resolution 6, legislation to make it harder for voters to amend the Constitution, claim to be protecting the Ohio Constitution from out-of-state money and special interests. Rather than focusing on increasing transparency in our campaign finance system and strengthening disclosure laws, the Majority Party is more interested in making it harder for citizens to hold their elected officials accountable when they pass unpopular, extreme legislation.”
The trial of former Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) is scheduled to begin this January, nearly two and a half years after his arrest. He is alleged to have used a 501(c)(4) organization to hide the origins of over $60 million, which was funneled to himself, his associates, and his preferred political candidates in exchange for passing House Bill 6 and squashing referendum efforts.
“With multiple public corruption scandals plaguing our local and state governments in the last decade, it is clear that our campaign finance laws are not holding bad actors accountable,” said Rep. Russo. “This bill will strengthen disclosure and reporting requirements so that dark money and corruption cannot subvert the will of the people. If preventing special interests from influencing our elections was their true concern, then my Republican colleagues would be equally concerned about the multiple FBI investigations into the campaign finances of former elected officials, sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
The bill would do the following:
1. Close Dark Money Loopholes - Non-profit corporations like 501(c)(4)s and limited liability companies (LLCs) have become vehicles for big money special interests to hide their spending. These companies currently do not have to disclose their funders. The Ohio Anti-Corruption Act closes these loopholes, requiring these corporations and LLCs to disclose contributions meant to influence elections.
2. Require Transparency – The Ohio Anti-Corruption Act will strengthen disclosure by requiring corporations and LLCs to tell us more about their true owners and the actual source of funds behind the deceptively benign names of their organizations. The integrity of our democracy depends on openness and accountability.
3. Strengthen Ban on Foreign Money - Under the Ohio Anti-Corruption Act, domestic corporations with foreign owners and decision makers will be banned from spending in our elections. Large foreign companies also won’t be able to get around our current foreign spending ban by opening an American subsidiary funded mostly with foreign money to spend unlimited sums in our elections.