The Ohio Elections Commission on Thursday agreed to have a full hearing on a case filed by the supporters of State Issue 2 against their opponents, alleging spending misconduct by their Political Action Committee.
But the commission dismissed two other complaints against the same group — Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue.
The dismissed complaints alleged that the opposition campaign, which is entirely funded by big drug companies through the trade group PhRMA, broke campaign finance law by failing to properly register an LLC as a PAC and failing to itemize how much money came from individual PhRMA member companies.
The complaint the commission agreed to hear claims the opposition failed to register their PAC in a timely manner and failed to report activity occurring before the PAC was registered.
“We’ve said from the beginning that all three of the Yes side’s complaints were baseless — and today the Ohio Elections Commission unanimously voted to dismiss two of them out of hand,” said No campaign spokesman Dale Butland. “But even though a 3-2 majority also voted to dismiss the third complaint, that motion fell one vote short of the four that were needed. And so, a hearing on that complaint will be held on Nov. 2 — and when it occurs, we’re extremely confident that we will win that one as well.”
Issue 2 supporters — Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices — said they are disappointed with the commission’s decision and fear it could set precedent that allows campaign donor information to be hidden from the public.
“It’s another example of them rigging the system against taxpayers and against voters,” said Yes campaign spokesman Matt Borges.
The opponents’ financial disclosure statements filed in July show the PAC received $15.8 million in donations at that point, entirely from a subsidiary of PhRMA. The subsidiary is an limited liability corporation, formed in Ohio the same day as the PAC and bearing the same name.
The Yes campaign contends this was an illegal maneuver in order to avoid disclosing the individual donors.
“Our opponents are afraid and ashamed to show their faces because if the veil of secrecy were lifted what Ohioans would learn is that all the big name drug companies are financing the fight to defeat Issue 2,” spokesman Dennis Willard said at the time of the complaint filing.
Borges said Friday the commission’s decision amounts to condoning secretive campaign finance practices that deceive voters.
“That’s not how this process is supposed to work,” he said.
The No campaign has repeatedly said it is not hiding anything.
“We’ve never made any secret of it. We’ve said that the pharmaceutical industry is funding the bulk of this campaign,” Butland said.
MORE COVERAGE OF ISSUE 2: