Connect with us


Ohio government is already captured by radical special interests. State Issue 1 would make it worse




Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis watches the Ohio House floor as House Republicans prepared to pass a resolution for an August election proposal to make it harder for voters to amend the Ohio Constitution. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal)

The central issue for Ohio voters to consider over State Issue 1 on the ballot Aug. 8 is whether we want to give up our own power to hold our politicians accountable.

Right now, due to unconstitutional gerrymandering, we have very little power to do so anyway. But Ohio Republicans are underfunding a low-turnout August election to try to take what’s left: majority rule itself.

By asking voters to pass State Issue 1, Ohio Republicans are asking a majority of voters to shred our own authority over our constitution, and to make citizen-ballot requirements so restrictive that only the most wealthy special interests will have the resources to participate in the process.

State Issue 1 would do these things by raising the threshold for Ohio voters to pass amendments from 50% to 60% — giving a minority of 41% of voters veto power over anything a majority of Ohioans wants — and increasing signature requirements from 44 counties to all 88 counties — giving any small county in Ohio veto power on citizen initiatives over all of Ohio’s other counties.

This effort is being bankrolled by an extremist Illinois billionaire named Dick Uihlein, who has also funded both Jan. 6, and Trump-sycophant 2020 election deniers around the country. Uihlein’s group has launched similar attacks on direct democracy in Missouri, South Dakota, and Arkansas, all of which failed.

Ohio has one of the most corrupt state governments in the country, where politicians have regularly given away billions of dollars in public money to sweetheart donor special interests in scandal after scandal over the years.

At the end of this column, I’ve collated a collection of headlines, but these scandals include: massive utility company special interests robbing ratepayers of hundreds of millions of dollars; charter school scam artists ripping off taxpayers by hundreds of millions of dollars; drug companies that admitted defrauding Ohioans by tens of millions of dollars; predatory payday lenders skirting accountability to fleece vulnerable Ohioans; a nursing home industry peddling campaign donations and influence for sweetheart lawmaking, special interest groups writing legislation; lobbyists writing lawmakers’ testimony, and lawmakers creating standards that benefit their privately-owned businesses.

In 2011, Republicans met in a secret hotel room bunker to gerrymander themselves into Statehouse supermajorities, which they’ve used to carry out this staggering amount of unabated public corruption.

In 2021 and 2022, they defied voters, the Ohio Constitution, and a bipartisan Ohio Supreme Court five times to rig Ohio’s Statehouse maps with gerrymandering again, forcing voters to cast ballots in unconstitutional districts.

Since winning their new gerrymandered supermajorities last November, Ohio Republicans have pursued the most anti-democracyanti-educationanti-libertyreactionaryextremist agenda I have ever witnessed in Ohio.

In lame-duck session, they gave Ohio one of the most restrictive voter laws in the nation. With State Issue 1, they became the first legislature in Ohio history to try to roll back the constitutional power of voters.

They have admitted in private and in public that their effort is aimed to stop an abortion rights amendment slated for the November ballot, and to stop voters from any effort toward further anti-gerrymandering reform.

One of the biggest advocates in favor of this attack on Ohio voter power has been Ohio Right to Life, which lobbied lawmakers to pass the resolution, paid $5 million for false and deceptive ads to manipulate Ohioans against the abortion rights proposal, and is holding events with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Issue 1 celebrating the overturning of Roe v. Wade to try to stoke energy to dismantle voter powers that Ohioans have had for more than a century.

Remember who filed the federal lawsuit to bypass the bipartisan Ohio Supreme Court’s rulings against gerrymandering? Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis.

Also in support of Issue 1 are gun-ownership absolutists, whom Ohio Republicans in recent years have showered with sweetheart lawmaking such as a “stand your ground” law that increases gun violence, a permitless concealed carry law that also increases gun violence — from a lawmaker whose testimony was written by a gun lobbyist — and another law, on hold right now in the courts, that bans Ohio towns and cities from enacting their own ordinances to try to prevent gun violence.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce jumped in on the attack on Ohio voter power, but refuses to discuss the proposal’s clear and admitted ties to restricting abortion rights. This, from a group that represents businesses that have promised to pay for their employees’ abortion travel due to Ohio’s draconian ban.

The Chamber says they support the assault on voters because they oppose a proposal to increase the minimum wage.

Notably, poll after poll shows these groups are out of step with majorities of Ohioans on abortion rights, on gun violence protections, and on the minimum wage.

But we have an Ohio government not only captured by wealthy special interests to whom they corruptly funnel billions of dollars in public money, but also captured by culture war radicals intent on imposing their fanatical, authoritarian ideology on all Ohioans, and for whom Ohio Republicans are ruthlessly attacking democracy itself.

In a somewhat poetic twist of fate, as Ohioans gear up to vote on State Issue 1, former Ohio House Speaker and convicted felon Larry Householder is being sentenced to prison Thursday for carrying out a $60 million political bribery racketeering scheme funded by corrupt utility special interests to obtain a $1.3 billion bailout at Ohio ratepayer expense.

Former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges will be sentenced to prison for felony racketeering on Friday.

“The Ohio Constitution is not for sale,” the campaign in favor of Issue 1 states on their website. Ohio Republican politicians clearly are for sale, and majority rule over the Ohio Constitution is really the only tool of accountability voters have left to do much of anything about it.

As Ohio voters make this decision on whether to keep — or whether to give away — our own power, perhaps it would be useful to take a look at a collection of headlines about Ohio government in recent years, and to ask ourselves if this is the kind of state government that deserves less accountability, or more.

*All articles from the Ohio Capital Journal unless otherwise noted.

Gerrymandering, voter restrictions, and attacking the Ohio Constitution

State Issue 1

Illinois billionaire attacking Ohio voters also funded Jan. 6 and election deniers

Billionaire-funded group driving effort to erode democracy in key US states (The Guardian)

Ohio Sec. of State LaRose admits making constitution harder to amend is ‘100% about… abortion’

Ohio Rep. Stewart gives amendment game away on extremist abortion bans and illegal gerrymandering

Targeting abortion access, Ohio Republicans are trying to make it harder to amend the state’s constitution (CBS News)

DeWine explains why he’ll vote for Ohio’s Issue 1 in August election

GOP lawmakers, Right to Life meet with Ohio Chamber, Business Roundtable on amendment change

Local boards of election stressed by lack of funding in state budget for August special election

With abortion rights on the line, an August special election has Ohio election offices scrambling (Associated Press)

Ohio Secretary of State sent wrong Issue 1 ballot language to election offices (Dayton Daily News)


Bipartisan Ohio Supreme Court majority rejects partisan Statehouse redistricting maps for fifth time

House GOP leader on Supreme Court impeachment: ‘All options are on the table’

LaRose would ‘be fine with’ chief justice’s impeachment over redistricting rulings

Republicans ignore redistricting order from Ohio Supreme Court, signaling they intend to run out the clock (

With deadline looming, lawsuit filed to move Ohio redistricting case to federal court

Federal court implements Statehouse maps twice declared unconstitutional by Ohio Supreme Court

Analysis: Only 1 in 4 Statehouse races will be competitive under new redistricting plan

Ohio Republicans look to have picked up one Ohio Senate seat, and perhaps 2 to 4 in the Ohio House

Voter restrictions

Trump ‘White House in waiting’ helped develop Ohio voting bill touted as model for states

Ohio Republicans up and down the ballot claimed fraud in 2020 election

LaRose bends to election denying extremists again by pulling Ohio out of database integrity program

Bipartisan elections official agree: Ohio doesn’t need photo ID for voting (ABC 6 Columbus)

A behind-the-scenes look at how Ohio enacted the most restrictive voter photo ID law in America

New voter ID requirements put out-of-state college students “between a rock and a hard place”

New Ohio voter ID law also excludes state veterans’ IDs

In a state with 1M license suspensions, Ohio voter ID law could depress turnout

Ohio’s new voting restrictions from GOP raise alarm (The Washington Post)

100-year-old Ohio woman couldn’t cast ballot under new photo ID requirement (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Radical agenda against science and expertise

Extremist abortion ban

Ohio bill would ban abortion without rape exemption

Ohio doctors unite to oppose abortion ban

Arrest confirms Indiana abortion for Ohio 10-year-old: Republicans questioned her existence

Affidavits: More pregnant minors who were raped denied Ohio abortions

Ohio lawmakers reintroduce medically unproven ‘abortion reversal’ bill

IVF patients, doctors share concerns about new Ohio bill recognizing ‘personhood’ at conception

Fact check: No mention of transgender, parental rights in abortion amendment

Majority of Ohioans would support enshrining abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution, new poll says (

Gun-ownership absolutism

Gun lobbyist wrote GOP lawmakers’ ‘permitless carry’ speech, document data shows

‘Stand Your Ground’ laws tied to racial inequities, increase in violent crime, researchers say

‘Our voices are not heard’ — Ohio’s largest police union slams new GOP gun bills

Ohio law banning local gun control ordinances has been put on hold by a court (Statehouse News Bureau)

Ohio’s response to Uvalde? Armed teachers and $117 million

Ohio lawmaker who wrote bill requiring gun training for teachers owns gun training business

As Ohio Republicans loosen state’s gun laws, poll finds voters overwhelmingly favor several new gun restrictions (


DeWine, top lawmakers met with national anti-vax leader in 2019

DeWine re-ups anti-abortion lobbyist, COVID skeptic on Ohio Medical Board

Anti-mask, anti-vax Ohioans support bill targeting health dept. authority

Ohio legislature overrides DeWine veto of pandemic authority bill

New pandemic law takes effect; experts say it undermines public health

Ohio lawmaker to retiring anti-vaccine leader: ‘You are wonderful, don’t leave!’

Report calls on medical boards to go after COVID “disinformation doctors;” Ohio’s has not

She says vaccines make you magnetized. This lawmaker invited her testimony, chair says.

Cleveland doctor, who said COVID-19 vax makes people magnetic, under state investigation

GOP lawmaker says he won’t let Jewish health director turn Ohio into Nazi Germany

Ohio politicians condemned for pandemic comparisons to Nazi Germany

An estimated 37,000 American kids lost a parent to COVID-19, study finds


Comments about the Holocaust from representative sponsoring ‘divisive concepts’ bill raise concerns

Students, educators fight against bill that would prohibit teaching ‘controversial’ topics

Ohio House committee talks ‘American Birthright,’ social studies standards

Some college students worry Ohio bill would require slavery to be taught from ‘both sides’

‘It’s an atrocious bill.’ Students and professors rally against massive Ohio higher education bill

More than 100 people spoke out against a massive Ohio higher education bill during marathon meeting

Anti-LGBTQ+ health care

Doctors discredit Ohio transgender bill as extreme overreach

Ohio pediatric doctors decry government control of gender-affirming care

More than 200 people submit opponent testimony against bill to limit health care for LGBTQ youth

Ohio bill limiting health care for LGBTQ+ youth would create registry of trans kids, activist says

Ohio Rep. behind bill limiting transgender care had never spoken to community

Ohio lawmakers and religious lobbyists coordinate on anti-trans legislation

Ohio House passes bill blocking gender-affirming care and trans athletes

New bill would ban transgender students from using bathroom that matches gender identity

Anti-minimum wage increase

Poll: Ohio Voters Support Higher Minimum Wage (Public News Service)

Ohio minimum wage not enough to rent two-bed apartment, report says (WCMH)

Cleveland, Akron, among highest rents in Ohio, but average wages cannot cover costs (

Sweetheart lawmaking and public corruption

Utility bailout and bribery

Ohio House speaker, four others arrested amid massive dark-money, pay-to-play allegations

Former Ohio speaker, GOP chair both found guilty of racketeering

Before bribery scandal, JobsOhio forgave a $12m loan to FirstEnergy to clean up a coal plant

Texts, calendars, emails link DeWine to FirstEnergy’s bribery scandal

AEP doesn’t have much to say about its support for corrupt utility bailout

Analysis: Bribery scandal shows how Ohio politics is polluted with dark money

FirstEnergy fired its CEO amid bribery scandal but let him keep millions, documents show

FirstEnergy collected $460 million from customers; auditor unsure if it was spent on bribes

Utility regulators block watchdog’s requests for info about a buried audit of a $460 million fund

After scandal broke, FirstEnergy lobbyist pushed DeWine on “covid response”

Ohio governor won’t say he regrets picking regulator now at the center of historic utility scandal

Sweetheart lawmaking and appointments

Ohio utility regulator front and center in massive bailout scandal

Former DeWine aide warned governor about utility regulator before the FBI raided his home

FirstEnergy said it bribed a regulator for $4.3 million. Here’s how it worked.

Utility regulator accused of taking a bribe helped write bill targeting watchdog

Householder corruption trial: Regulator sent resume to utility he was regulating

Long-time DeWine friend lobbied for corporation accused of fraud

FirstEnergy admits it controlled dark money group started by DeWine aide

DeWine aide’s organization was link to now-guilty dark money group

DeWine refuses to explain aide’s role in bailout scandal

DeWine reaffirms support for aides, despite their roles in scandal-tainted legislation

Despite scandal, DeWine says he takes corruption seriously

DeWine re-ups anti-abortion lobbyist, COVID skeptic on Ohio Medical Board

How an Ohio representative’s business could profit off the ‘stand your ground’ bill he co-sponsors

Charter school corruption

Ohio’s Schools Lost Nearly $600 Million To ECOT Since 2012 (Statehouse News Bureau)

The GOP’s Biggest Charter School Experiment Just Imploded: How a washed-up lobbyist built a charter school empire and siphoned millions from public schools. (Mother Jones)

Was Ohio’s charter school award a $71M mistake? (Dayton Daily News)

19 charter schools to be investigated for years of misconduct (Columbus Dispatch)

Charter school billed state $1.2 million for no-show students, some in prison or out of state (

Troubled Ohio charter schools have become a joke — literally (The Washington Post)

State’s top school choice official resigns after illegal e-school omission (

Official excluded failing charter school grades (Associated Press)

Medicaid corruption

Medicaid director owned stock in companies she awarded huge contracts

Long-time DeWine friend lobbied for corporation accused of fraud

In sworn statements, Ohio Medicaid director might have contradicted herself

Bias, conflict were present in $22 billion Ohio Medicaid contract, bidder says

As pandemic ebbs, fears grow that Ohioans will be improperly forced off of Medicaid

Citing Medicaid costs, DeWine and other governors call for an end to Public Health Emergency

Rural hospitals gird for unwinding of pandemic Medicaid coverage

Half a million people in less than a dozen states have lost Medicaid coverage since April

11th state settles with Medicaid contractor over conduct first uncovered in Ohio

Attorney General seeks financial info from Medicaid contractors

Ohio Medicaid won’t say if it considered federal oversight reports in massive procurement

Ohio Medicaid preaches transparency, withholds watchdog reports

Experts: DeWine’s son, Medicaid director both have clear conflicts

DeWine: Additional transparency not needed in massive Medicaid contracts

Payday lending and nursing homes

A crackdown didn’t stop this payday lender from cashing in on poor Ohioans

Dayton-based payday lender continues to bury customers in debt

Judge says lender created a ‘legal fiction’ to skirt payday loan reforms

Nursing homes spent at least $6 million on Ohio politics in five years

Nursing home assn. gave $135k to dark money group tied to Householder bribery case

‘Money without oversight;’ lawmaker proposes giving nursing homes $300 million

Lawmaker proposed $300m handout to nursing homes; then raised $52,000 from their liaisons

Senate votes for $300 million in COVID relief for nursing homes

Errors, deception preceded deadly nursing home covid outbreaks, inspections show

At least 35 nursing homes failed COVID-19 infection control audits

Their roommates had COVID-19. A nursing home kept them there anyway

Assaults on home rule

Inconsistencies in Ohio’s home rule authority highlighted by tobacco legislation

State legislature approves ban on local ‘bag bans’

House to consider blocking cities from banning natural gas

Senate passes bill blocking cities from limiting concealed knife carry

Columbus mulls new strategy to limit gun violence. Could it work?

Ohio Gov. DeWine ignores questions about gun safety amid state lawsuit against Columbus gun law

Ohio House passes bills to stiffen ‘riot’ penalties; stop police from limiting guns on scene

DeWine signs bill giving commissioners ‘kill switch’ on wind, solar projects

Why is Ohio pushing away millions of dollars in solar energy development?

Ten Ohio counties ban wind, solar projects under new state law

State government may soon kill a solar project in the governor’s backyard

Ohioans bear the costs

Is Ohio the best state? Not even close, per a U.S. News & World Report ranking

2021 saw record fatal ODs, gun deaths, car crashes in Ohio over 15 years, data shows

Student hunger is pervasive in Ohio

As costs continue to rise, the child hunger crisis in schools continues to grow (WOIO)

After the end of COVID-era benefits, 70k older Ohioans struggle to fight hunger

New report highlights ongoing problem with poverty in Ohio (WEWS)

Ohio’s Schools Lost Nearly $600 Million To ECOT Since 2012 (Statehouse News Bureau)

How Ohio’s child care costs compare nationwide: Ohio child care costs are among the nation’s most expensive when compared to incomes (Axios)

Economists pan Ohio coal subsidies

HB 6 coal plant charges mount up again in Ohio (Energy News Network)

Coal plant subsidies from pay-for-play legislation have cost Ohioans $173 million

Millions of Ohioans facing home gas and electric rate hikes: Utility companies propose $400 million per year in new collections

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

Never miss another story.

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox with the free News Briefing.

Sign Up