Lawmakers unveil proposal to reform Ohio’s campaign finance laws after House speaker’s arrest

Published 3:06 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2020

By The Center Square

COLUMBUS – A pair of state representatives have introduced legislation aimed at reforming Ohio’s campaign finance laws.

The proposal from state Reps. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and Jessica Miranda, D-Forest Park, comes in the wake of the arrest of House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, as part of a $60 million “public corruption racketeering conspiracy.”

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Federal authorities allege Householder was involved in an “enterprise” that received $60 million “from an energy company and its affiliates” – widely reported to be Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. – to help pass House Bill 6, a ratepayer-funded bailout of two Ohio nuclear power plants, as well as defeat a ballot initiative to overturn the legislation.

“We cannot continue down the path of what is, but should aspire to pursue what should be when it comes to campaign finance reform,” Manning said in a 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,” Manning added. “This legislation is needed now more than ever to increase transparency when it comes to campaign finance.”

The bill will also bring Ohio into compliance with the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission. The Buckeye State has not updated its laws “to align with federal law” in the wake of the ruling, according to a news release.

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

The legislation is similar to a measure Lt. Gov. Jon Husted proposed when he was in the state Senate, proponents say. While the state Senate passed the bill, Senate Bill 240 from the 128th General Assembly, the state House did not consider it.

“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 statement. “I appreciate the leadership of Rep. Gayle Manning in taking the initiative to introduce this bill again. Perhaps enough lessons have been learned to get it passed this time.”

The bill is awaiting a committee assignment in the Ohio House. Householder has not resigned or stepped down from his role as speaker, but several prominent Republicans in the state, including Gov. Mike DeWine, have called for his resignation.