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Columbus Dispatch: Bipartisan Ohio lawmakers propose shedding light on ‘dark money’ in campaigns

July 27, 2020

A bipartisan duo of Ohio lawmakers introduced legislation to shed some light on dark money, a move that was immediately endorsed by Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Dark money — so dubbed because it is not subject to public disclosure — fueled the $60 million criminal conspiracy run by House Speaker Larry Householder and lobbyist Neil Clark, federal authorities say.

That twosome and three others were charged last week with violating federal racketeering laws, subjecting them to prison terms of up to 20 years each. The charges stem from the passage last year of House Bill 6, a billion-dollar-plus bailout for Ohio’s two nuclear power plants and a pair of coal-burning facilities tied to American Electric Power.

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Secretary of State Frank LaRose almost immediately jumped on board, saying in a release, “Now more than ever, Ohioans have seen first-hand how dark money can influence the decisions that impact our lives. I’m hopeful that this legislation will be a positive first-step towards finding the solutions necessary to get voters the transparency they deserve.”

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LaRose warned that the new House Bill 737 does not on its own “provide the campaign finance transparency Ohioans deserve and may further complicate an already complex set of campaign finance laws.”

The problem is the maze of Ohio law that has sprung up around such terms as “independent expenditures” and “electioneering communications,” he said.
The decade-old proposal also would not have addressed unusual expenditures to hire “blockers’ to thwart a petition drive for a referendum to overturn House Bill 6.

Still, LaRose said the Manning-Miranda proposal can become “a workable, meaningful campaign finance reform bill to increase transparency and shed a light on the dark money that has infiltrated Capitol Square.”

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