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Campaign to Extend Cuyahoga County Sin Tax Spends More Than $1 Million

The stadium, field, and complex where the Browns, Cavs, and Indians play before sports fans (pic: Brian Bull)
The stadium, field, and complex where the Browns, Cavs, and Indians play before sports fans (pic: Brian Bull)

The campaign to extend Cuyahoga County’s sin tax for upgrades to Cleveland’s downtown stadiums has raised and spent more than $1 million -- an amount that vastly exceeds spending by the issue’s opponents.

The Coalition for Greater Cleveland’s Future -- the pro-sin-tax political action committee better known as Keep Cleveland Strong -- raised about $1.4 million, including loans, according to unaudited campaign finance reports from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. The campaign spent nearly $1.3 million. Most of the campaign’s funds came from Cleveland’s three professional sports teams.

The Cavaliers, Indians and Browns together wrote $997,000 in checks to the campaign, and loaned another $200,000. The teams also gave the campaign in-kind contributions valued at $619,000 for signs, marketing services, personnel and radio and video production -- that's in addition to the amount of cash raised and spent.

Keep Cleveland Strong spent about half of its money on Buying Time Media, a Washington D.C.-based company that places advertisements on TV and radio.

Meanwhile, the Coalition Against the Sin Tax raised less than $6,600. Most of that money came from Alan Glazen, a campaign leader who wrote a check for $5,000.

The coalition spent much of its money on campaign workers -- including writing a $1,500 check to Cuyahoga County executive candidate Tim Russo for shooting and producing video.

A second, separate campaign against the sin tax raised $35,000, spending much of that money on a Columbus-based political consulting firm. The Wholesale Beer & Wine Association of Ohio contributed nearly a third of the campaign’s money.

The rest of the contributions came from a nonprofit group called Ohioans to Protect Jobs. Federal tax records show the group’s president in 2012 was John C. Mahaney Jr., who stepped down last year from a position he long held as head of the Ohio Coalition of Retail Merchants.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.