behind the curtain
In Ohio's Issue 2 fight, as in so many elections these days, it's hard to take the classic advice "follow the money." On one side we know: Unions and grassroots donors have made sure that the fight to reject Issue 2 is well-funded. On the other side, it's a lot more mysterious. That's because so many of the anti-worker groups pushing to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers by passing Issue 2 are allowed to keep their operations secret.
Building a Better Ohio, the main in-state group pushing Issue 2 (and the one that made the deceptive ad pulled by dozens of television stations) doesn't have to disclose its donors, but the Columbus Dispatch reported that the effort led by Building a Better Ohio was expected to have a $20 million budget, and we know that corporate funders from Motorists Mutual Insurance Co. to the Greater Cleveland Partnership to the Associated Builders and Contractors to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce have poured money into the effort to take rights from workers.
Liz Cheney's Alliance for America's Future has flooded the state with anti-Obama mailings. These groups thrive in secrecy, so Alliance for America's Future doesn't have to disclose its donors, of course, but the Dayton Daily News reports that the group is spending "over seven figures" on Issue 2.
Then there's Americans for Prosperity, the creature of the Koch brothers, themselves large early funders of Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Americans for Prosperity's website lists more than a dozen town halls to discuss "how Issue 2 (Senate Bill 5) can help" local financial crises. Dick Armey's Freedomworks is also getting in the game with "tens of thousands of yard signs and door hangers" being handed out from six distribution centers around the state, rallies, and other events. The Republican Governors Association, funneling money through "Make Ohio Great," bought at least $441,000 and as much as $1.2 million of ad time in October.
In the final week, anti-Issue 2 group We Are Ohio reported being outspent on advertising, with other groups, like "Restoring America" and the notorious Citizens United coming in with six-figure ad buys. Then there are who-knows-who-they-are efforts like the flyer Greg Sargent reported on yesterday.
This is one where the good guys are actually primed for a win—with the polling and enthusiasm on our side and probably about even in funding over the course of the campaign. But the thing is, with all these different right-wing groups cropping up, not having to disclose their funding, we just don't know. We know there's a ton of money and that a lot of it is being collected and spent by the Koch brothers and Dick Armey and Liz Cheney, but we don't have a full accounting of how much they're putting in, let alone of what's going on with Restoring America, "a shadowy group which is reported to have been funded by a single donor during a recent battle in Kentucky."