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Who funded Ohio Statehouse politics in 2021?

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Education and construction unions, natural gas utilities, the beer and wine industry, optometrists, car dealers, telecommunications firms, nursing home operators, doctors’ associations and others dumped money into lawmakers’ accounts in 2021.

These funds set the stage for the maiden elections on yet-to-be finalized maps setting the district lines. (The Ohio Supreme Court overturned the GOP-passed maps last month, determining them to be an unlawful gerrymander. The court is currently reviewing a revised proposal).

Republicans trounced Democrats in terms of fundraising by just about any measurement.

The largest donors contribute disproportionately to Republicans. The largest fundraisers in the General Assembly are all Republicans. And bank accounts controlled by the party itself tower over their Democratic counterparts.

Political campaigns cost money. Sometimes, a lot of money. Here’s who’s providing it.

Largest PAC contributors

These are some of the largest, non-individual donors to Ohio lawmakers through 2021. This list doesn’t include accounts affiliated with the state Democratic and Republican parties.

  • Political Education Patterns, an arm of the International Union of Operating Engineers, is typically one of the most prominent Ohio donors but has not yet filed a full 2021 report. Using data reported by candidates (instead of the PAC itself), the organization contributed about $564,000.
  • Affiliated Construction Trades, comprised of several different unions, contributed about $561,000.
  • The Ohio State Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters gave $338,625.
  • The Wholesale Beer & Wine Association, through its PAC, gave $280,000.
  • The Ohio Credit Union Legislative Action Committee gave $203,718
  • NiSource PAC, whose namesake is the parent company of Columbia Gas, gave $144,225
  • The Ohio Bank PAC gave $121,000
  • The Ohio Optometry PAC gave $109,000.

Biggest fundraisers

These are the largest fundraisers in the House and Senate in 2021. They are all Republican, part of a pattern of the party significantly outraising Democrats by almost any measure.

The filings can give an indication of who may be jockeying for influence or a leadership position within their caucuses.

  • Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima: $875,000
  • Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville: $429,000
  • Sen. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard: $370,000
  • House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima: $331,000
  • Rep. Tom Patton, R-Strongsville: $300,000
  • Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson: $233,000
  • Rep. Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill: $233,000
  • Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark: $228,000
  • Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton: $219,000
  • Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp.: $218,000.

Big individual donors

As has been true in the past, several nursing home operators have served as the General Assembly’s largest benefactors.

For instance, the Ronald Wilheim, CEO of the Communicare nursing home chain, and his wife contributed $92,000 to six Republicans through the year. Brian Colleran, CEO of Foundations Health Solutions chain of nursing homes, and his wife contributed $80,400. Colleran’s business partner Daniel Parker contributed nearly $27,000. (These donations come atop contributions from three separate PACS representing the industry.)

Other notable, large donors to legislative and statewide candidates include:

  • Members of the Haslam family, some of whom own the Cleveland Browns, contributed more than $58,000 to various Republicans. James Johnson, another Browns owner, contributed another $13,000 as well.
  • The namesake family of The George Group (real estate) gave $42,000 to Republicans — $40,000 of which went to Rep. Jay Edwards
  • Virginia “Ginny” Ragan, one of the most prolific GOP donors in Ohio politics, gave $65,000, all to Republicans.
  • Regina Mitchell, of Warren Fabrication, gave $43,000 to three Republicans
  • Albert Ratner, of RMS Investment Group, and his wife gave nearly $59,000, almost exclusively to Republicans
  • Abigail and Leslie Wexner, who gave $54,000 to Republicans

Republicans clobber Democrats

Whichever way you cut it, Republicans wield a powerful cash advantage over Democrats.

As Cleveland.com reported, Republicans running for the Supreme Court outraised Democrats on a sixfold margin. In the Legislature, it’s a tenfold margin.

The filing period captures the year leading up to redistricting but before the Ohio Supreme Court overturned a map proposal that would have likely expanded and cemented in a Republican supermajority.

In the gubernatorial race, incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine raised about $7 million compared to his primary challengers: about $1.2 million from Renacci (roughly $1 million of which came from personal funds) and $624,000 from Joe Blystone. On the Democratic side, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley raised $2.4 million, compared to former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who raised about $1.9 million.

In the race for chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Justice Sharon Kennedy raised about $332,000 compared to about $164,000 for Justice Jennifer Brunner.


This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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