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Individual Donations to SB 5 Repeal Campaign Dwarfed by Union Giving

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Friday, August 19, 2011 at 2:47 PM

The dueling campaigns over the repeal of Senate Bill 5, the Ohio law that would limit collective bargaining for public employees, are on track to spend $40 million or more by November. For the campaign fighting to repeal SB 5, most of that money is coming from unions, rather than individuals. (The pro-SB 5 campaign hasn't disclosed its donors yet.)

Does that mean that regular Ohioans aren't getting involved in this battle affecting teachers, police officers and plenty of regular Ohioans? Far from it. Today we take a look at where that money's coming from, and what that means for the controversial law's future.

In the campaign to repeal Senate Bill 5, Ohio's collective bargaining law, financial contributions from ordinary people have been dwarfed by those from unions. For every dollar individuals gave to the campaign to repeal SB 5, unions gave more than $100.

Protesters against Senate Bill 5 display their signs during a rally at the Ohio Statehouse in February.

That's not surprising, says John Green, director of the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. In issue campaigns like this one, organizations and corporations are often major funders. What is unusual is the "extraordinary" number of signatures opponents of SB 5 gathered to get the issue on the ballot--a state-record 915,456 valid signatures--pointing to strong feelings among voters in favor of repealing the law, Green said.

Those strong feelings have prompted people to give more than $39,000 to We Are Ohio, the anti-SB 5 campaign, which reported raising nearly $5 million in total financial contributions.

Take, for instance, Wright State University math professor Larry Turyn. Turyn donated several thousand dollars to the campaign to repeal SB 5. Turyn said his donation to the SB 5 campaign is much larger than checks he's sent to political and issue campaigns in past years. (His last donation was $250 to the Ted Strickland campaign in 2010. "Looking at it now, to be honest I wish I had given more," he said.)

We Are Ohio Campaign Contributions (July 2011 Campaign Finance Report)

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Spending on SB 5 Campaigns

Combined spending on the SB 5 referendum campaigns could rival the state record for an issue campaign, which was $56 million spent in the 2009 battle over casinos, said University of Akron political scientist John Green.

Top Donors to SB 5 Repeal Campaign

  • AFSCME International - $1,000,000
  • Communications Workers of America - $1,000,000
  • AFL-CIO State Battles - $750,000
  • National AFL-CIO - $750,000
  • Service Employees International Union - $500,000

Top Individual Donors to SB 5 Repeal Campaign

  • Lawrence Turyn, Yellow Springs, OH - $5,000
  • Larry Shaw, Mansfield, OH - $1,671
  • Jerome Rampelt, Columbus, OH -$500.00
  • Larry Wagner, Wickliffe, OH - $250
  • Stanley Adelstein, Pepper Pike, OH - $200

Top Donors to Pro-SB 5 Campaign

  • Actually, because the pro-SB 5 campaign is structured as a 501(c)(4) organization with an associated state campaign committee, it doesn't have to publicly report donations to the parent organization. However, the campaign says that it will disclose who has given to the campaign--though not how much they've given--before the Nov. 8 election.
  • The pro-SB 5 campaign's state campaign committee is required to report its contributions and expenditures. However, most of its funding will probably come from its parent 501(c)(4) organization.

Source: Ohio Secretary of State, Building a Better Ohio

[/module]Turyn, who is secretary of his school's faculty union, said he'll be retiring soon and doesn't have a personal stake in the outcome of the SB 5 referendum.

"I don’t think I’m investing in anything for myself, but I sincerely believe in the cause," he said. "I believe collective bargaining is good for the employees and the state institutions, and it’s good for the state of Ohio."

I've Always Believed
And last month, retired Sandusky mail carrier Kathleen Sidoti clicked on a "donate" link in an AFL-CIO newsletter and gave $10 to the campaign to repeal SB 5.

"I can’t afford to give a lot, but I just wanted to do my part," she said.

For Sidoti, her donation was a matter of faith. "I’ve always believed in unions and how important they are to the working class," she said.

A Different Organization

Building a Better Ohio, the campaign supporting SB 5, has organized itself differently from the anti-SB 5 campaign, as a 501(c)(4) organization with an associated state campaign committee, so the legal requirements for what Building a Better Ohio needs to disclose about its funding and expenditures are different.

Building a Better Ohio will raise most of its money through its parent organization, known as a 501(c)(4) for the section of the tax code it's governed by, campaign spokesperson Jason Mauk said. That parent organization will then transfer funds to the state campaign committee to use to run the campaign.

The law says that the campaign does not need to disclose who has given to the parent organization or how much they've given. However, Building a Better Ohio will disclose the names of those who have given--though not the amounts given--at some point before the Nov. 8 election, Mauk said.

As of the reporting cut-off date of the last required state campaign finance report, the parent organization hadn't made any transfers. Mauk declined to say how much the campaign has raised since then or from whom.

"We’re not discussing campaign finance strategy at this time," he said.

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