Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Legislation to Penalize Campaign Finance Violators Passes from House Committee

COLUMBUS—The House Criminal Justice Committee yesterday approved legislation that, when enacted, will impose a criminal penalty on public officials who knowingly use public funds for political purposes.

House Bill 326—jointly sponsored by Representatives Jeff McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) and Brian Hill (R-Zanesville)—institutes a penalty of a first-degree misdemeanor, similar to the penalty for other campaign finance law violations. Currently, the Ohio Revised Code specifies that it is illegal to utilize tax dollars for political purposes but does not include a criminal penalty.

“This bill is very straightforward,” McClain said. “It simply protects taxpayer dollars and is deserving of the unanimous support it received.”

“Taxpayers are one step closer to holding their public officials accountable if they misuse public dollars and violate campaign finance laws,” Hill said. “Thank you to Chairman Slaby and the members of the Criminal Justice committee for their speedy consideration and unanimous support of this important legislation.”

The issue arose after a recent audit of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) revealed that in 2007 and 2008, TARTA illegally loaned nearly $67,000 to Citizens for TARTA, the political action committee that gathers resources to fund TARTA levy campaigns.

Having passed from the Criminal Justice Committee, House Bill 326 now awaits a vote by the full Ohio House of Representatives.