In the wake of the largest public corruption case in Ohio history, lawmakers on the right and left are pushing bills that call for more transparency for dark money politics.
Republicans Diane Grendell of Chesterland and Mark Fraizer of Newark introduced House Bill 13, which they call the Light of Day Bill. The bill, which has had two hearings in the House Government Oversight Committee, would require 501(c)4 nonprofit organizations to disclose political spending and donors.
Such organizations currently do not have to disclose their financial backers and only reveal limited information on their expenditures on IRS forms that are filed annually. For that reason, 501(c)4s are often called dark money groups.
Democrats Allison Russo of Upper Arlington and Bride Rose Sweeney of Cleveland on Tuesday announced the Ohio Anti-Corruption Act, which would mandate disclosure of donations to 501(c)4s, require more disclosure of true owners of certain nonprofits and block foreign companies from political spending via American subsidiaries.
House Bill 306 was introduced Tuesday and is awaiting hearings.
Two former House speakers are under investigation by the FBI. Republican Cliff Rosenberger stepped down three years ago, and a month later his home and storage unit were searched by FBI agents. He has not been charged with a crime and has said he did nothing wrong.
Republican Larry Householder of Glenford in Perry County pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges in what prosecutors call the biggest bribery case in Ohio history. He was removed as speaker but reelected to his House seat.
“The criminal allegations involving the former speaker and House Bill 6 demonstrate just how necessary and long-overdue serious campaign finance reform is,” Russo said in a news release. “This bill will strengthen transparency and accountability so that dark money and corruption cannot subvert the will of the people who elected us to serve. Ohioans deserve better from their government, and this bill ensures the best interests of our constituents remain front and center.”
Grendell said in her written testimony on HB13: “It is about shedding more light on campaign finances in Ohio in the future. Transparency creates trust.”
It’s unclear if either bill has the momentum needed to pass. Another campaign finance reform bill introduced last July failed to gain traction. And House GOP members have so far declined to hold a vote on whether to expel Householder from the Legislature.