COLUMBUS — Campaign records due to the state on Friday will reveal how much both sides spent in a fall ballot fight that ended with the defeat of Ohio’s sweeping new collective bargaining law.
Ohioans were barraged with TV ads, mailers and sparring in the press during the months leading up to the November vote on whether the union law should be kept or tossed out. The bill would have restricted the bargaining abilities of more than 350,000 teachers, police, firefighters and other unionized public employees around the state.
Even before the final campaign finance deadline, some $30 million in combined spending had been reported by opposition campaign We Are Ohio, backed largely by labor unions, and by Building a Better Ohio, a campaign supported by business groups, farmers and others who wanted the law left in place.
Insiders have predicted that spending would top that of last year’s hard-fought governor’s race, in which almost $34 million was spent.
Friday’s reports were to show spending and contributions from mid-October to early December in the union law fight.
Backers of the bill had help from outside interest groups, who spent independently to keep the collective bargaining restrictions in place.
Filings submitted ahead of Friday’s afternoon deadline show Virginia-based Alliance for America’s Future spent more than $1.7 million on mailings in support of the law. Conservative group Citizens United spent $115,000 on email and television advertising, according to independent expenditure reports filed this month with the Ohio’s top election official.
More than 61 percent of Ohio voters rejected the collective bargaining law in last month’s election.
Gov. John Kasich, a first-term Republican, and other supporters had promoted the overhaul as a means for city officials, school superintendents and others to better control their costs and keep workers on the job during a time of tight budgets.
Opponents had argued the collective bargaining restrictions were an unfair attack on public employee unions that had worked cooperatively with their government employers for decades. They also accused lawmakers of exploiting a state budget crisis to pass an unpopular measure.
Previous campaign finance reports from mid-October show that We Are Ohio campaign raised almost $24 million and received more than $6 million in in-kind contributions. Unions were among its top donors. The Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, contributed more than $4.7 million. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and its locals gave more than $5.1 million, while Service Employees International Union affiliates contributed more than $1.5 million.
The Building a Better Ohio coalition raised $7.6 million and spent almost $6 million through its political action committee as of mid-October, according to its previous forms. The coalition is not required to say who gives money to it because of its status as a nonprofit corporation, whereas We Are Ohio is a political action committee that by state law had to publicly disclose its spending, donors and their contributions.
Building a Better Ohio voluntarily provided a list of donors before Election Day and did so again on Friday. Neither list reveals how much each contributor gave — or other identifying information, such as address and occupation.
Donors on both lists include the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and Make Ohio Great, a project of the Republican Governors Association. Others who have donated to Building a Better Ohio include the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and Associated Building & Contractors, a coalition of nonunion construction interests.
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