Thursday, December 18, 2003

Ohio asked to regulate political-ad groups

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer is urging lawmakers to regulate groups that raise money and run political ads without calling for the election of a particular candidate, now that a federal court ruling cleared the way for such a bill.

"Legislation to require these advocacy groups to identify their contributors would have a salutatory effect on judicial campaigns," Moyer wrote Tuesday to House Speaker Larry Householder, a Glenford Republican.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision last week upheld the federal ban on corporate and union donations to political parties under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

Moyer noted the ruling on those soft money donations also struck down a past court requirement that political speech can't be regulated unless it contains phrases including "vote against" or "elect."

Court fights continue in Ohio over disclosing contributors to a pro-business group that ran advocacy ads in recent Supreme Court elections.

Citizens for a Strong Ohio, an "issue-advocacy" group formed by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, spent $4 million in its unsuccessful 2000 campaign to defeat Justice Alice Robie Resnick. Those groups are relying on the argument the high court struck down last week, Moyer said.

"The ruling presents a historic opportunity for Ohio to improve the political process by opening to public scrutiny the secret donors of groups that clearly seek to influence the outcome of elections but have, until now, been allowed to do so in secret," he wrote.

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