Issue 3 to lower fund limits for campaigns

Laura Hoesman and Laura Hoesman

In the wake of recent campaign funding scandals in Ohio, Issue 3, a proposed constitutional amendment to reform Ohio’s campaign finance laws, will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Supporters of Issue 3 say it will reduce campaign funding corruption by lowering the amounts of money individuals and groups can donate to candidates. Those opposed to the amendment say it would unfairly benefit labor unions and wealthy political candidates.

The amendment, proposed by the non-partisan group Reform Ohio Now, would lower the amount of money an individual can donate to a statewide campaign from $10,000 to $2,000. It would also outlaw corporate campaign contributions and allow the creation of “small donor action committees.”

The committees, which would permit members to contribute up to $50 each to a political campaign, could be formed by any group of people to finance a specific candidate, according to RON Spokesman Keary McCarthy.

These groups are at the heart of RON’s goal to reduce corruption caused by the disproportionate influence of wealthy individuals on the government, he added.

“It is more democratic to have a system of political giving that allows large numbers of people to give small amounts of money,” McCarthy said.

People opposed to Issue 3 say the amendment would favor labor unions, which would be more likely to form small donor action committees.

“They [labor unions] would typify the group that would take most advantage of it,” Jim Wasil, College Republicans president said. “A lot of labor unions are leftist and a lot of unions in general use money toward political causes.”

Wasil said small donor action committees have the potential to be corrupt because the groups would not be required to provide the names of people donating money.

He explained that since unions are more likely to support liberal candidates, the amendment would unfairly favor Democrats.

But since anyone, not just labor unions, would be allowed to form small donor action committees, the amendment wouldn’t be unfair, according to Maria Khoury, president of the College Democrats.

“It doesn’t have to be just labor unions,” Khoury said. “Republicans could also go and form a small group and be able to donate just as much as a labor union might be able to.”

Since Issue 3 would allow candidates to spend an unlimited amount of their own money on their campaigns, people against the amendment say wealthy candidates would have an unfair advantage in elections.

McCarthy downplayed the potential of Issue 3 to favor the wealthy.

“That is a scare tactic based on nothing more than political propaganda,” McCarthy said. “The problem in Ohio is not that wealthy people are campaigning for office. The problem in Ohio is that the wealthy are buying influence at the Statehouse.”

He added that if candidates’ personal wealth becomes a problem as a result of the amendment, new laws could be passed to correct the problem.

In compliance with a request from RON, the Ohio Democratic Party did not form an official stance on Issue 3, according to Communication Director Brian Rothenberg. He said that Party members plan to abide by whatever campaign finance laws are supported by voters, and he expects Ohio Republican Party members do the same.

“Whatever the rules are, we expect Republican officeholders to abide by them,” he said. “In this culture of corruption, it is clear that Republicans wrote the very laws that many, including our Governor, have been convicted of breaking.”

The Ohio Republican Party is opposed to Issue 3, as is RON’s rival group, the Ohio First Voter Education Fund.