Lawmakers Set Sights On Dark Money Transparency

Jul 27, 2020

Lawmakers are introducing bills that require more transparency when it comes to dark money groups in political campaigns. The bills are in reaction to an alleged racketeering scheme involving a dark money organization and Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford).

One bipartisan bill, HB737, would create reporting requirements for entities that make political contributions. 

Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) is co-sponsoring a similar bill, which would among other things require 501(c)(4)s to disclose their funders. 

"For Democracy to work the process has to be transparent," Russo says. 

Federal investigators say a company thought to be FirstEnergy funneled millions through a 501(c)(4) called Generation Now, to ultimately benefit House Speaker Larry Householder and get a sweeping energy bill, HB6, passed. 

Current laws do not require groups like Generation Now to disclose its donors. 

Rep. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) is co-sponsoring HB737 with Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park).

"We cannot continue down the path of what is, but should aspire to pursue what should be when it comes to campaign finance reform," said Manning in a written statement. "I believe that we must move past the unethical activities that we have recently discovered that went into House Bill 6 and push for a better, cleaner and trustworthy set of rules for Ohioans that we represent. This legislation is needed now more than ever to increase transparency when it comes to campaign finance.”

That legislation is meant to mirror a previous bill introduced in 2010 by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted when he was in the state senate, SB240 in the 128th General Assembly. That bill is an attempt to create transparency laws that align with the U.S. Supreme Court case, Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission.

"I introduced this bill requiring transparency a decade ago, and if it had become law then, Ohio would be in a much better place today,” Husted said in a written statement. "Perhaps enough lessons have been learned to get it passed this time."

Russo is co-sponsoring her transparency legislation with Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland). That measure has not yet been assigned a bill number.

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