Ohio Senate approves GOP campaign finance bill targeting foreign contributions.

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  • The Ohio Senate passed a GOP-backed campaign finance proposal banning foreign contributions to ballot issues.
  • Senate Bill 215 aims to create consistency in state law regarding foreign money in campaigns.

In a 25-7 party-line vote, the Ohio Senate advanced Senate Bill 215, a proposal introduced by Republican Sens. Rob McColley and Theresa Gavarone to prohibit foreign contributions to campaigns for and against ballot issues in the state. The bill, fast-tracked with its first committee hearing just a week before, was a response to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s call for action on the issue. While Ohio candidates have been barred from accepting money from foreign nationals since 2000, there was no such ban in place for ballot issues until now.

Supporters of SB 215 argue that it brings much-needed consistency to state law and protects from foreign influence in elections. However, critics, including Democratic caucus members, have raised concerns that the bill does not effectively address dark money but is instead a response to recent successful citizen-initiated ballot issues, such as the passage of a constitutional amendment affirming the right to an abortion. Amendments to the bill proposed by Democrats, including additional funding for the Ohio Elections Commission and removing a provision requiring ballot circulating committees to register as PACs, were voted down.

Although proponents of the bill have highlighted the dangers of dark money, some critics fear unintended consequences, such as stifling the voice of Ohioans involved in local petitions. With support from national conservative organizations and no public opponents so far, SB 215 now moves to the Ohio House for further consideration.

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