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New Ohio law expands foreign money ban to state ballot issues

A roll of "I Voted Today" stickers on top of a pile of cash.
Joaquin Corbalan P
Political contributions in Ohio are the target of a new law.

Republican state lawmakers passed new legislation earlier this month that expands the state's ban on political contributions by foreigners. House Bill 1 expands the law so it explicitly applies to statewide ballot issues, too.

Republicans say this is to weed out foreign influence in Ohio politics, but Democrats say the law is in direct response to progressive statewide ballot campaigns, like abortion access that passed last fall, and the upcoming redistricting reform campaign, that is expected to be on the November ballot. Those campaigns had funding support from Sixteen Thirty Fund, which gets funding from a Swiss billionaire who lives in Wyoming.

The foreign money ban was signed into law last week by Governor Mike DeWine, but doesn't go into effect for 90 days. It is expected to be legally challenged.

The law also expands the state's definition of "foreign national" to include permanent lawful residents, known as green card holders, and not just people who live in other countries.

And it changes the consequence for breaking the ban from a civil offense with a fine to a criminal offense, including a felony for repeat offenders. The ban would be applied to people who knowingly accept these contributions and not just the donors themselves.

Tuesday on the "Sound of Ideas," we'll discuss this legislation with proponents and opponents, as well as Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau Chief Karen Kasler.

Later on in the program, we'll hear from long-time journalist William Hershey, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia from 1968-1970.

Hershey has a new book out that compiles his writings on his time in Ethiopia. He reflects on what that experience meant to him as a young person, and how it informed his life-long journey as a journalist.

Hershey spent over 40 years covering state and national politics for publications like The Dayton Daily News and The Akron Beacon Journal, where he won a Pulitzer Prize.

- Karen Kasler, Bureau Chief, Ohio Public Radio and Television News Bureau
- Atiba Ellis, Laura B. Chisholm Distinguished Research Scholar and Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
- Jason Snead, Executive Director, Honest Elections Project
- William Hershey, Author, "Taking The Plunge Into Ethiopia: Tales of a Peace Corps Volunteer"
- Drew Maziasz, Coordinating Producer, Ideastream Public Media

Rachel is the supervising producer for Ideastream Public Media’s morning public affairs show, the “Sound of Ideas.”