Issue 2 on track to be most expensive ballot issue in Ohio history

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Issue 2 on track to be most expensive ballot issue in Ohio history

The campaigns arguing for and against State Issue2 — the prescription drug price ballot initiative — have raised a combined $73 million to date, according to pre-election campaign finance reports submitted to the Secretary of State’s office.

With more spending expected in the run up to Election Day, that figure puts this ballot issue campaign on track to be the most expensive in state history.

The opposition has far outraised and outspent supporters of the measure.

Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue has raised $41.1 million and spent $39.4 million since July 1. Overall, it has raised nearly $57 million.

All that money has been contributed by the pharmaceutical manufacturer trade group PhRMA, which has 37 member companies.

The main group supporting Issue 2, Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices, has raised and spent $10.3 million since July 1, and has raised a total of $16.5 million since the PAC formed in 2015.

Almost all of that money has come from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a California-based non-profit that serves HIV/AIDS patients all over the globe, including in Ohio.

The Yes on Issue 2 campaign put out a press release following the filing of its report saying the disparity in spending has made this a “David and Goliath” match.

“The big drug companies have been spending in excess of $3 million per week on lying TV commercials to confuse voters and oppose Yes on Issue 2,” the release said.

Spokesman Dennis Willard said the fact that drug companies are spending so much to defeat Issue 2 shows how much it could potentially cut into their profits.

“We’re asking voters to consider the effect this huge spending has had on public opinion and question why big drug companies are so intent on defeating Issue 2. It can’t possibly be for the public benefit because we know that they spent billions to influence Congress and push opiates, the exact opposite of benefit to the public,” Willard said.

The opposition campaign said it has spent more because it’s had a harder task, having to educate the public that something that sounds good would in fact be detrimental to many Ohioans, spokesman Dale Butland said.

“We’ve had to engage in a massive education campaign,” he said.

The opposition will likely outspend supporters three to one, but Butland said he expects the Yes campaign to spend more than $20 million when the campaign is over.

“For the Yes campaign to cast themselves as David is preposterous,” Butland said. “You can buy a lot of sling shots for $20 million.”

It’s long been projected that spending on Issue 2 would surpass the 2009 campaign to allow casinos in Ohio — thought to be the most expensive in state history.

Supporters of the casino ballot issue overall contributed $47.2 million in cash to the Ohio Jobs and Growth Committee PAC from 2009 through December 2011.

Opponents raised a total of $25.7 million trying to defeat the measure, bringing the grand total in spending on the casino issue to just shy of $73 million, roughly the same amount raised by the two sides on Issue 2 with 10 days to go before the election.

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