Sunday, September 17, 2000

What's the Buzz?


Business leaders join Ohio Supreme Court campaign fray

        Business leaders in Ohio aren't just casually interested in changing the makeup of the Ohio Supreme Court this fall. They're writing big checks to make it happen.

        An organization formed by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, called Citizens for a Strong Ohio, has raised more than $2 million for the fall campaign, with Justice Alice Robie Resnick's ouster as its main goal, sources familiar with the campaign said.

        Convinced Justice Resnick's rulings on tort reform and other “anti-business” opinions are driving companies out of the state, a number of business leaders are supporting Judge Terrence O'Donnell.

        The Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce is encouraging its members to get involved and asking them about key judicial issues affecting business.

        “The judicial atmosphere in Ohio is hostile to business,” said Susan Laffoon, the local chamber's vice president of government and community affairs. “No matter what the legislature does, it gets overturned by 4-3 decisions.”

        Justice Resnick said she had heard different groups around the state had raised more than $6 million targeting her for defeat this fall.

        “It's obvious they're attempting to buy a seat on the Supreme Court,” she said.

        Her opinions raising the ire of the business community include a case last summer that threw out limits on jury awards passed by the Ohio Legislature.

        A study by the Ohio Chamber gave Justice Resnick a “pro-business score” of 18 percent, the lowest on the court.

        Chip McConville, director of political and candidate education for the Ohio Chamber and vice president of Citizens for a Strong Ohio, would neither confirm nor deny the amount of money raised. But he said the independent group would spend money on “issue advertising” to combat the influence of trial lawyers and labor unions.

        “Business hasn't been on the playing field,” he said. “Well, this year business is on the playing field.”

        Richard Mason, executive director of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, defended Justice Resnick's record. That group also could pay for a media campaign, he said.

        “Our members will do anything we can to make it clear to voters in this state the positive impact that Justice Resnick has had,” he said.

        “If they want to spend a lot of money, they can spend a lot of money,” Mr. Mason said of the business leaders. “We don't represent corporations, so we can't snap our fingers and write those kind of checks.”
       

— Cliff Peale

        Have a tip about a Tristate company? Call 768-8147 or e-mail business@enquirer.com.

       



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