Skip to main content

My Legislation Will Keep Foreign Money Out of Ohio Elections

Another bill will preserve the integrity of our ballots
By Theresa Gavarone
February 2, 2024
On The Record

Foreign money doesn’t belong in Ohio’s elections.

And the convoluted and confusing ranked choice voting concept doesn’t either. 

That’s why I am working on two bills to prohibit both in the Buckeye State.

Last week, Senator McColley and I introduced Senate Bill 215, which prohibits foreign entities from funding ballot issue campaigns and closes the loophole on foreign dark money. 

Our elections are just that: OUR elections. Since the dawn of our democracy, our Founding Fathers warned of foreign interference in our elections process, specifically the “desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

Ohioans can vote in Ohio elections. U.S. citizens vote in national elections. Foreign nationals do not have this right. Nor should they. But right now, they can give millions of dollars to ballot issue campaigns to convince Ohioans to vote the way that benefits them, not our state. 

Notably, these donations are often shrouded in mystery. 501(C)(4) advocacy groups and similar organizations use a loophole to hide this information.

As Alexander Hamilton eloquently described in Federalist 68, “The business of corruption, when it is to embrace so considerable a number of men, requires time as well as means.”

And these donors have the time and the means.

One dark money group, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, spent $12 million dollars on ballot campaigns in Ohio in 2023. The Sixteen Thirty Fund has received over $200 million dollars from Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss since 2016 and spent more than $400M supporting leftist candidates and causes in the 2020 election. 

This big spending doesn’t seem right to me. The majority of Americans agree.

Nearly 80% of voters favor a ban on foreign individuals and entities funding ballot initiatives, and this support is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. 

Other states and some cities are moving to end this spending, too. Many already have similar laws on the books or have legislation pending to ban foreign dollars in campaigns, including Colorado, California, and even New York.  

Bipartisan legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. Congress to prohibit these contributions in state and local ballot initiatives.

Senate Bill 215 is a concept everyone can get behind for the sake of preserving and protecting our elections.

The same can be said for Senate Bill 137, which bans the use of ranked choice voting. I’m sponsoring this bill with my colleague State Senator Bill DeMora, a Democrat. 

This bill is bipartisan because we both recognize the dangers ranked choice voting brings to our elections. 

Ranked choice voting is a method that continuously eliminates candidates in a series of rounds until a winner materializes. Voters rank candidates in order of their personal preference instead of choosing just one.

The process itself is difficult to follow. It is convoluted, confusing, and calamitous. 

In the 1900s, a handful of Ohio cities tried this method before their citizens demanded an end to it.

The experiment failed then. It is failing again now.

Just ask the citizens of Arlington, Virginia, who found the process hard to grasp. The Arlington County Board decided not to use ranked choice voting in its November general election. Turns out “the complexities of the tabulation method left many in Arlington — one of the most highly-educated counties in the country — with plenty of questions about how things worked on the back end.”

In New York City, there was genuine concern in 2020 from “members of the N.A.A.C.P. and the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus” that ranked choice voting would “hurt candidates of color, and that a more complicated ballot could reduce turnout.”

In the last Democratic mayoral primary for the city, the entire process took 57 days to find out Eric Adams was the winner.

57 days.

And in Alaska, ranked choice voting became the new method for general elections in 2020 by vote of the people. Now there are a ballot initiative and a bill pending to repeal it. 

Across the country, ranked choice voting is failing. The experiment did not work. Again. 

The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 

History and current chaos elsewhere teaches us this experiment is insane.

We do not want to ruin the integrity of our elections by trying ranked choice voting in Ohio. 

Voters deserve to know where information is coming from on candidates and issues, and foreign entities making large donations make this difficult. Why add another confusing layer onto our elections process with ranked choice voting?

Ohioans deserve safe and sensible elections. Both Senate Bill 215 and Senate Bill 137 are imperative for the security of our process and basic voter transparency.