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Published: Saturday, 1/22/2005

Coalition battling new law hits snag

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - A labor-led coalition that wants voters to scuttle Ohio's new campaign finance law ran into a temporary setback this week when Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell rejected a petition to begin the process.

Mr. Blackwell determined the group fell 57 valid signatures short of the 100 needed from registered voters just to trigger a petition drive to get the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The latter petition would require about 193,000 signatures and would have to be submitted no later than March 30, the day before the controversial law is to take effect.

Mr. Blackwell and Attorney General Jim Petro approved the language that would be presented to potential petition signers. But the coalition must submit another petition containing at least 100 valid signatures.

Mr. Blackwell's office employed a signature validation process it characterizes as "binding" and "overly restrictive" that one the group's attorneys, Don McTigue, helped put in place.

The process resulted from a Franklin County Common Pleas Court ruling last year after clients of Mr. McTigue challenged signatures in an effort to force lawmakers to repeal a temporary penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike earlier than planned.

Mr. Blackwell was the front man for the repeal effort, which ultimately ran out of time because of the challenges.

"Unfortunately, what Mr. McTigue argued is the proper interpretation of Ohio law is now preventing his client from receiving approval," said Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo.

Mr. LoParo said the ruling requires names appearing on petitions to be identical to those on voter registration cards.

"I think they're playing games with me and my client," Mr. McTigue said. "But this is not going to stop us."

Gov. Bob Taft signed the campaign finance reform law on Dec. 30. The law quadruples the amount of money individuals may contribute to candidates from $2,500 to $10,000 for each primary and general election. It also requires full disclosure of who's involved in political campaigns and advertising.

Mr. McTigue declined to reveal who makes up the coalition, although he said it includes labor, public-interest, and good-government groups. The petition submitted to Mr. Blackwell had been circulated by David Kolbe, an AFL-CIO employee.

"Everyone in the coalition and the majority of Ohioans believe there's more than enough money in politics right now without quadrupling the limits," Mr. McTigue said.

The group also objects to limits on the use of union membership dues in the political process and a mandate that professional signature gatherers for petition and voter-registration drives be paid by the hour rather than by the signature.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com,

or 614-221-0496.



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