Common Cause Ohio Wants the Public to be able to “Follow the Money” Raised by Lobbyists

COLUMBUS –  Today, Common Cause Ohio released an analysis of the never-before-disclosed fund-raising planning email to mark Sunshine Week and called for changes in state law that would allow Ohioans to easily follow the money that lobbyists help candidates raise.  

The email reminded participants of “a weekly finance call” with Gov. Mike DeWine and identified upcoming events. According to campaign finance reports, these events during the final weeks of 2019 helped DeWine’s campaign generate nearly half-million dollar.  The fundraising email included seven “hired gun lobbyists.” Together, these lobbyists have 126 clients and all of them lobby the executive branch as well as the legislative.  

“Gov. DeWine knows which lobbyists are raising money for him. The public has a right to have that information, too,’’ said Common Cause Executive Director Catherine Turcer.

According to Turcer’s analysis, Ohio’s weak disclosure and transparency laws contribute to a status quo where industry insiders have undue — and undisclosed — influence over important decisions made by state government.

“It’s time to expand lobbyist disclosure to require that registered agents reveal any support they provide to candidates with their fundraising activities in their reports filed with the Ohio Legislative Inspector General,’’ Turcer said.

Her report comes amid an on-going FBI investigation into a $60 million bribery scheme that has ensnared former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, led to three guilty pleas and caused the abrupt resignation of the state’s top utility regulator. Federal officials contend that Akron’s FirstEnergy secretly funneled millions to dark money groups to secure a $1 billion legislative bailout for unprofitable nuclear power plants operated by a FirstEnergy subsidiary.

It also comes amid a high-stakes legislative debate over how to structure legal sports wagering. Ohio’s deep-pocketed casinos have advocated for sports betting only in casinos and racetracks. Advocates for public schools and small business want the Ohio Lottery in charge.

The seven lobbyists who are part of DeWine’s “weekly finance team” include lobbyists for FirstEnergy, Duke, Caesar’s, Jacobs Entertainment, and horseracing interests.

The money they raised includes:

  • $13,000 from Matt Borges, one of the lobbyists indicted in connection with the bribery scheme. Borges plead not-guilty;
  • Cleveland Browns’ co-owner James Haslam and his wife, Susan, each gave the maximum $13,292. All Ohio pro sports teams support legal sports betting;
  • Equine Racing PAC  donated $13,292;
  • Cleveland businessman and nuclear bailout booster Tony George gave $13,000. He heads the George Group. 

To read Common Cause’s new analysis, click here.

To read the never-before-disclosed fund-raising planning email, click here.

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