Sandusky Register: Dark money dangers

In the era of hyper-partisan politics, nothing should surprise us. But a news story earlier this week about a bill state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, has introduced did just that.

Gavarone wants to ban dark money, or some dark money, at least. Citing a left-wing dark money group that received millions of dollars from a Swiss billionaire, Gavarone wants to ban foreign contributions to state ballot issue campaigns.

We get it that foreign money spent to influence the outcome of statewide ballot initiatives in elections is not appealing, but all dark money is suspect and troubling. Who knows who is spending how much to influence the outcome of these elections.

Foreign contributions already are banned for Ohio candidates, so Senate Bill 215, Gavarone’s proposal, would close a loophole for issue campaigns.

“Ohio’s elections should be about Ohioans, not foreign individuals, governments and entities trying to influence our democracy and decisions,” Gavarone said.

Fair enough.

But Gavarone seems to be reacting to Ohio voters giving a massive win to supporters of reproductive rights in November, approving a state constitutional amendment to protect women’s reproductive freedom by 57% to 43% margin. We suspect the margin would have been even greater if the misinformation during the campaign last fall had not been so robustly distributed.

In its infamous decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010), the Supreme Court tossed a bone to lawmakers seeking to regulate money in politics. With a few exceptions, Citizens United stripped the government of its power to limit the amount of spending on elections, especially by corporations. But the decision also gave the Court’s blessing to nearly all laws requiring campaigns and political organizations to disclose their donors.

That changed, however, with the court’s Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta decision in 2021, which flips Citizens United’s approach to disclosure laws on its head. The decision assumes that most disclosure laws are not constitutional.

“The upshot is that wealthy donors now have far more ability to shape American politics in secret — and that ability is only likely to grow as judges rely on the decision in Americans for Prosperity to strike down other donor disclosure laws,”, an online news organization, reported.

There is a problem with secret foreign contributions, indeed, but secret campaign donations from anywhere are as much of a problem. Citizens United continues to harm our elections processes. That’s what needs to be fixed.