Friday, April 25, 2003

Ruling: Chamber broke election law

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce violated the state's ban on corporate spending against candidates with its ads in 2000 attacking Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, The Ohio Elections Commission ruled Thursday.

The commission vote was 4-3, with Warren Tyler, an independent, joining the board's Democrats in favor of Common Cause/Ohio, which brought the complaint.

A lawyer representing the chamber said the group would appeal the ruling in court, seeking a clarification of such spending that could lead the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. A lawyer for Common Cause also said he was awaiting a court decision. The commission fined the chamber $1,000 but won't collect it unless the chamber loses in court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld previous cases, citing a 1976 ruling that outside groups such as the chamber and labor unions are free to produce political ads so long as they do not directly urge the election or defeat of a candidate. "Since 1976, methods of campaigns have changed and methods of raising money have changed," Tyler said. "The ads tend to sway you in a direction that is not ambiguous."

As part of an agreement the U.S. Chamber and Common Cause reached before Thursday's hearing, Common Cause dropped its claim that the Chamber ads contained false statements.

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