• Campaign Finance Legislation: Am. Sub. H.B. 1
  • January 25, 2005 | Authors: Maria J. Armstrong; Sean A. Mentel
  • Law Firm: Bricker & Eckler LLP - Columbus Office
  • After months of debate about a campaign finance reform, the Ohio Senate adjourned on December 8, 2004 without enacting a new law. The next day, Governor Bob Taft issued a Proclamation ordering the General Assembly to convene in a special session to continue its work on campaign finance reform. In an unusual one-week special session, the General Assembly introduced, deliberated upon and eventually passed Amended Substitute House Bill 1 ("H.B.1"). H.B 1, introduced by Representative Kevin DeWine (R-Fairborn), was signed by Governor Taft on December 30, 2004 and becomes effective on March 31, 2005.

    H.B. 1 contains significant reforms that change a number of Ohio's campaign finance laws. Key provisions of the bill include raising campaign contribution limits for individuals and PACs, limiting the amount statewide candidates can accept from local county state candidate funds, banning certain "electioneering advertising" thirty days before an election, requiring disclosure of party operating accounts and disclosure of contributions and expenditures by groups that pay for electioneering advertisements. A brief outline of those provisions follows.

    Contribution Limits (R.C. §§ 3517.102, 3517.1011 and 3517.1012)

    • Increases the amount an individual can contribute to political candidates during the primary election period or the general election period to $10,000 per period, from $2,500 per period.

    • Increases the amount a PAC can contribute to political candidates during the primary election period or the general election period to $10,000 per period, from $2,500 per period.

    • Increases the amount an individual can contribute to a state political party for the party's state candidate fund in a calendar year from $15,000 to $30,000.

    • Permits individuals to contribute $15,000 to any one legislative campaign fund in a calendar year. A legislative campaign fund is a separate fund (one for each chamber of the General Assembly) maintained by a state political party with the primary purpose of promoting candidates for the House or Senate.

    • Prohibits individual contributions to the state candidate fund of a county political party other than the county in which the individual's residence is located.

    • Prohibits PAC contributions to a county political party for the party's state candidate fund.

    • Prohibits county political parties from making contributions to other county political parties.

    • Limits county political party state candidate fund aggregate contributions to $250,000 to any one statewide candidate, $10,000 to any one house or senate candidate during the primary or general election period.

    • Allows state and county political parties to create funds that can accept corporate and labor contributions for limited purposes.

    Electioneering Communications (R.C. §3517.1011)

    • Regulates "electioneering communication," defined as any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that refers to a clearly identified candidate and that is made between the time a person becomes a candidate and 30 days before the general or primary election.

    • Requires every person or political committee intending to make a disbursement for the direct costs of producing or airing electioneering communications to notify the Secretary of State that the person intends to make such disbursements.

    • Requires every person who makes a disbursement in excess of $10,000 in a calendar year for the cost of producing and airing electioneering communications in excess of $10,000 in a calendar year to file a statement with the Secretary of State within 24 hours of making the disbursement.

    • Requires every individual who makes a contribution aggregating $200 or more for the purpose of funding the costs of producing or airing electioneering communications to provide the person's full name and employer's name.

    • Prohibits broadcast, cable, or satellite communications, funded by any contributions from a corporation or labor organization, that refer to a clearly identified candidate during the 30 days preceding a primary or general election.

    Phone Banks and Petition Circulators (R.C. §§ 3517.20 and 3599.11)

    • Requires candidates, PACs, parties, or other groups or individuals utilizing phone banks for the purpose of promoting the election or defeat of a candidate or issue to disclose who is paying for the call. (Section 3517.20).

    • Prohibits the paying of petition circulators on a fee per signature or fee per volume basis. (Section 3599.111).

    Corporations and Labor Unions (R.C. § 3599.03)

    • Prohibits corporations, non-profit organizations and labor unions from directly making contributions or using any portion of corporate funds or union dues to fund political activities.

    Penalties (R.C. § 3517.992)

    • The penalty for a state party or county political party that accepts funds in excess of $30,000 or $10,000 respectively is three times the amount accepted in excess of the permitted amount.

    • The penalty for an individual or PAC that fails to file notice or disclosure of electioneering communication is not more than $10,000 and $1,000 per day of violation.

    • The penalty for violating the prohibition on electioneering communications 30 days before a primary or general election is three times the amount paid for the communication.

    H.B 1 also made numerous, but more minor, changes to Ohio law. More changes to Ohio's Campaign Finance laws may be on the horizon, as a corrective bill is anticipated in 2005. In addition to H.B. 1's regulation of electioneering communications, recent decisions in the state and federal courts have narrowed the traditional definition of "issue advocacy" and imposed new standards on many types of political communication.

    This short outline of Amended Substitute House Bill 1 provides basic information about the new laws. However, it is not meant to be a comprehensive explanation of Ohio's complex campaign finance laws.