COLUMBUS — The two sides in Ohio’s nationally watched battle over public employees’ collective bargaining rights have spent nearly $28 million combined over nearly four months in their attempts to sway voters to their cause.
And that’s just what has been reported to the state as of Thursday’s deadline. Federal non-profit organizations have also been spending money on TV ads and mailers in Ohio to influence the outcome of the Nov. 8 vote. They do not have to report their spending to the state.
Despite the vitriol attached to the hot-potato topic, the spending is nowhere near a record for an Ohio ballot issue—at least not yet. That honor, at roughly $60 million, goes to the 2009 fight that wrote four casinos, including one in Toledo, into the state constitution.
The pro-Senate Bill 5 group Building a Better Ohio reported for the first time the sources of its money, but it broke its promise to say how much each donor gave.
Better Ohio, the political action committee covered by state law, reported collecting nearly $7.6 million, all of it from its federal non-profit corporation of the same name. Unlike the PAC, the non-profit was not legally required to disclose details of its financing but had promised previously to do so.
The name of a private corporation that may have given $1 million to save Senate Bill 5 appears on Better Ohio’s list alongside a donor that may have given $100 with nothing to differentiate between the two.
But Better Ohio’s official fund-raising and spending were eclipsed by We Are Ohio, the mostly Democratic and labor-fueled organization fighting Senate Bill 5, which will appear on the ballot as Issue 2.
We Are Ohio reported raising about $23 million in cash and in-kind contributions, the vast majority of it from unions from both inside and outside Ohio. It reported spending about $21.9 million and, counting cash it had on hand from the last reporting period, still had $4.3 million in the bank as of Oct. 19.
Better Ohio reported spending nearly $6 million of the $7.6 million it has raised.
Among numerous other provisions, Senate Bill 5 prohibits all public employees from striking, limits what they can negotiate, requires them to pay at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, prohibits government from picking up any portion of an employee’s share of his pension contributions, and prohibits the automatic deduction of “fair share fees,’’ in lieu of dues, from employees who refuse to join a workplace union.
The last Quinnipiac Poll on Issue 2 released Tuesday said 57 percent of registered voters are prepared to vote “no’’ on Issue 2 to scrap the law compared to 32 percent who said they will vote “yes’’ to keep it. That left just 11 percent of undecided voters to fight over.