Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Ohio House Passes Legislation to Penalize Campaign Finance Violations

COLUMBUS—In an effort to institute greater accountability in campaign finance, the Ohio House of Representatives today voted to pass House Bill 326, which imposes a criminal penalty on public officials who knowingly use public funds for political purposes.

This legislation—which was jointly sponsored by State 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 use 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 I am pleased with the strong bipartisan support it received.”

“Today, taxpayers are one step closer to ensuring public officials are held accountable in the court of law for the misuse of our tax money to fund campaigns,” Hill said. “An open, honest, transparent and fiscally-responsible government is what our communities demand and is what I will continue to fight for.”

The need for House Bill 326 came to light 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.

House Bill 326 passed by a vote of 90-2 and will now be sent to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.