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McColley, Gavarone Introduce Bill to Ban Foreign Contributions for Ballot Issue Campaigns

January 23, 2024
Rob McColley News

COLUMBUS - State Senator Rob McColley and State Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) have introduced Senate Bill 215 to prohibit foreign contributions to ballot issue campaigns. The bill extends the current law banning foreign contributions to candidates running for office, eliminating the loophole for issue campaigns. The law banning foreign national contributions in Ohio to political candidates has been in effect since 2000. 

“Ohio and other states across the country have seen foreign nationals pour millions of dollars into state issue campaigns under the guise of a tangled web of dark money groups," McColley said. "This legislation preserves and protects these pivotal questions from foreign influence, which was a concern of our founding fathers for the stability and success of our government."

"Ohio's elections should be about Ohioans, not foreign individuals, governments, and entities trying to influence our democracy and decisions," Gavarone said. "Senate Bill 215 prevents foreign influence on statewide ballot issue campaigns on both sides of the debate."

The introduction of SB 215 comes after known dark money group, The 1630 fund, spent over $13 million dollars on ballot campaigns in Ohio in 2023. The 1630 Fund has received over $200 million dollars from Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss since 2016, according to an Associated Press article from August 2023. 

Nearly 80% of voters favor a ban on foreign individuals and entities funding ballot initiatives, and the support for such a ban is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Multiple states have similar laws already in place or legislation pending to prohibit foreign contributions to these campaigns. Bipartisan legislation has also been introduced in U.S. Congress to prohibit these contributions in state and local ballot initiatives.

Senate Bill 215 must next be referred to a committee.