By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The committee campaigning for Issue 7 and its half-cent sales tax hike for mass transit infrastructure in Hamilton County raised nearly one-third of a million dollars in its first six weeks of existence.
The main opposition group, formed about the same time, has raised less than $6,000.
Campaign finance reports turned in Thursday to the Hamilton County Board of Elections list contributions and expenditures through Oct. 16.
Placed on the ballot by the Southwestern Ohio Regional Transit Authority, Issue 7 asks for a half-cent sales tax for its $2.7 billion, 30-year MetroMoves plan.
Formed on Aug. 29, the pro-Issue 7 group "Let's Get Moving" raised $331,738 through Oct. 16. There were 139 total contributors, including six who gave $25,000 apiece. Those included local businessman Otto Budig, Fifth Third Bank, Procter & Gamble and engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff's national office (the local Ohio office was a paid consultant on the MetroMoves plan).
In addition, 26 Metro employees authorized deductions from their paychecks, a procedure transit authority spokeswoman Sallie Hilvers said met legal muster.
"There was no pressure put on any employees," Ms. Hilvers said.
Metro general manager and chief executive officer Paul Jablonski wrote a check for $2,500 to the committee.
The pro-light rail campaign spent $237,454.50, with most of that going to paid staff and consultants ($70,000) and advertisements ($147,900).
A survey of local television stations found that the committee has bought about $220,000 in ad time since Oct. 16.
Meanwhile, the Alternatives for Light Rail Transit had raised $5,790 by Oct. 16 - and spent $116, on office supplies. A total of 29 contributors gave to the campaign; Hamilton County commissioner and committee co-chairman John Dowlin was the largest giver at $1,500.
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