Campaign filings show nearly $20 million contributed to official Issue 1 campaigns; 84% from outside Ohio

Ohio residents and groups contributed 14.3% to ‘Yes’ & 16.5% to ‘No’

Credit: Jay LaPrete

Credit: Jay LaPrete

Nearly $20 million has already been contributed to the campaigns for and against Ohio Issue 1, the proposed constitutional amendment on the Aug. 8 ballot that would make it harder to amend the state’s constitution in the future, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Ohio Secretary of State Thursday.

The official “No” campaign committee, One Person One Vote, out-raised the official “Yes” committee, Protect Our Constitution, $14.8 million to $4.9 million through July 19, reports show.

But, those campaigns aren’t the only political action committees active in the Issue 1 debate. Millions of dollars were raised by new political action committees that have vested interest in Issue 1, but it’s unclear how much of those dollars were donated or spent specifically for Issue 1.

For example, in the leadup to a November fight over abortion access, the anti-abortion PAC called Protect Women Ohio reported raising $9.7 million and spending $8.7 million. At least $1.9 million was spent on ads in support of Issue 1, according to Medium Buying, but the rest of that spending is harder to track. That’s true for other newly created PACs, including the Protect Women Ohio Action Inc. and Protect Our Kids Ohio.

On both sides of Issue 1, much of the debate has been centered on special interests. Issue 1 supporters argue that making it harder to amend the Ohio Constitution will limit well-funded special interests from launching campaigns to add favorable amendments to the Ohio Constitution.

The No side has largely called that a weak argument, pointing to an early ad campaign funded by Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein that encouraged the state legislature to put Issue 1 on the ballot before Ohioans could vote on an abortion-rights amendment in November.

Thursday’s campaign finance report gives Ohioans a broader — but incomplete — glimpse of where money in the Issue 1 campaign is coming from and where it’s going. Here’s what we know:

Protect Our Constitution: Official ‘Yes’ campaign on Issue 1

Financial Snapshot: Raised: $4.9 million ($695,208 from Ohio; 14.3% of total) | Spent: $1.6 million | On hand: $3.3 million

Analysis: So far, 82.5% of the Yes campaign’s funding has come Illinois conservative billionaire Richard Uihlein through a donation of $4 million. There were 151 unique contributions to the campaign, including 140 from Ohio. The median Ohio donation was $50. The median out-of-state donation was $25,000.

What they’re saying: In an interview with Dayton Daily News, Protect Our Constitution Spokesperson Spencer Gross characterized Uihlein’s $4 million contribution as unproblematic.

“I think supporters of Issue 1 are actively funding the demise of any future influence they might have over the state constitution,” Gross said. “The ‘No’ side is utilizing a left wing dark money network in an attempt to assert power over the state’s founding document rather than go through the legislative process.”

Gross was asked if the campaign communicated with Uihleihn, specifically to know what his goal is for supporting Issue 1.

“Personally, no,” Gross said. “Like the entire coalition that is supporting Issue 1, (there’s) a kind of diverse array of interests in this and this is an issue that means different things to different people.”

Where’d Protect Our Constitution’s money come from?

  • Three largest out-of-state contributors:
    • $4 million from Uihlein, owner of Uline.
    • $50,000 from Jimmy and Dee Haslam, Tennessee-based owners of the Cleveland Browns and the Columbus Crew.
    • $30,000 from the Tennessee-based National Federation of Independent Business.
  • Three largest in-state contributors:
    • $150,000 from Save Ohio Jobs, a newly created PAC that took in $250,000 from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
      • The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has come out in support of Issue 1 but was unable to be reached regarding the PAC. Save Ohio Jobs shares a treasurer with Protect Our Constitution, a West Chester Twp. lawyer named David Langdon who was unable to be reached.
    • $100,000 from 55 Green Meadows, a Lewis Center nonprofit associated with the Ohio Health Care Association, according to previous reporting from the Ohio Capital Journal.
    • $50,000 apiece from Wholesale Beer and Wine, the Ohio State Association of Nurse Anesthetists and CME Group Inc.

Where’d Protect Our Constitution’s money go?

  • Three largest expenditures:
    • $500,000 in grants to Protect Our Kids Ohio, a newly created PAC in Cincinnati also connected to Langdon.
      • Gross said the grants were to “support an organization whose mission aligns with protecting our constitution from outside special interest groups.”
    • $425,000 for digital advertising paid to Direct Persuasion in D.C.
    • $309,892 for direct mail paid to Majority Strategies in Texas.

One Person One Vote: Official ‘No’ campaign against Issue 1

Financial Snapshot: Raised: $14.8 million ($2.4 million from Ohio; 16.5% of total) | Spent: $10.4 million | On hand: $4.4 million

Analysis: A sizable chunk of the campaign’s money came from progressive dark money groups. Most notably, the campaign received $2.5 million from the D.C. based Sixteen Thirty Fund, a liberal “dark money” organization that has been a major contributor to national political campaigns. Similar contributions were made by the California-based Tides Foundation and American Advocacy Action Fund, Inc., an organization with no notable footprint.

Overall, One Person One Vote had a marginally higher share of Ohio money than Protect Our Constitution, but its campaign saw out-of-state contributions come from two main locations: D.C. at 5.9 million (40% of total) and California at 4.4 million (29.6% of total).

There were 1,756 unique donations to the campaign, 922 of them came from Ohio. The median Ohio contribution was $50; the median out-of-state contribution was $20.

What they’re saying: A One Person One Vote spokesperson declined comment when asked if the contributions were problematic and if his campaign has had official correspondence with larger donors.

Spokesman Dennis Willard said the campaign’s sentiment was captured in a Thursday press release, which reads: “We are proud of the enormous bipartisan coalition that has come together to defeat Issue 1. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and we’re working every day to communicate with every voter about how Issue 1 would end majority rule in Ohio.”

Where’d One Person One Vote’s money come from?

  • Three largest out-of-state contributors:
    • $2.5 million from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a progressive political fund based in D.C.
    • $1.9 million from the Tides Foundation, a California-based social justice political fund.
    • $1 million from the American Advocacy Action Fund, a California-based political fund; plus $1 million from the National Education Association
  • Three largest in-state contributors:
    • $1 million from the Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest education union.
    • $500,000 from the Ohio Progressive Collaborative, a liberal political fund.
    • $500,000 from the ACLU of Ohio, which was matched by the national organization.

Where’d One Person One Vote’s money go?

  • Three largest expenditures:
    • $6.5 million in media buys paid to Sage Media in D.C.
    • $2.9 million in ad buys paid to Uplift in California.
    • $278,038 in legal services paid to Elias Law Group in D.C.

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