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Ban on foreign money in Ohio ballot campaigns needed, says DeWine, who anticipates lawsuit

Close up of a U.S. permanent resident card, also known as a green card.
Close up of a U.S. permanent resident card, also known as a green card.

A legal challenge seems likely for the ban on foreign contributions into ballot issue campaigns in Ohio. But Gov. Mike DeWine, who this weekend signed both the foreign money ban and the deadline change to ensure President Biden is on the fall ballot, says he thinks the law was needed. 

House Bill 1 made a federal ban on foreign nationals donating to candidates or elections clear in state law. But it also extended it to U.S. permanent lawful residents, or green card holders.

DeWine said he called for the ban because he thinks most people agree that non-citizens shouldn’t pour money into campaigns in Ohio.

"I don't think anybody is worried about the average green card holder," DeWine said. "But we are worried about somebody who's got enough money to to tilt the scales in an election in the state of Ohio and who can't vote. But they can come in here and they don't even live here, but they can come in here and dump a bunch of money."

Republicans wanted the ban because the progressive dark money group the Sixteen Thirty Fund has donated in support an overhaul of redistricting likely to be on this fall’s ballot. The organization also donated to the campaign to pass the abortion access and reproductive rights amendment that passed in November as Issue 1.

“Whether [the ban] will be effective, I don't think anybody knows because we don't know what courts will do," DeWine said. "You know, any kind of controversial bill that's passed or even partially controversial ends up in court.”

Some Republicans, including HB 1's sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), noted including green card holders in the ban could conflict with federal law.

"As an old judge once told me a long time ago, that's why we have courts," DeWine said. "So we'll see what the courts do."

House Bill 2 was also passed in the special session and signed by DeWine on Sunday. It changes the 90-day presidential candidate certification deadline to 65 days, moving it from Aug. 7 to Sept. 1. That accommodates the nomination of President Biden at the Democratic National Convention Aug. 19-22. The deadline has been changed for three of the four presidential elections since the 90-day deadline was passed in 2010 - twice when both parties had conventions after that date.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.