Ohio lawmakers consider five donor disclosure bills in wake of Householder arrest

Ohio lawmakers consider five donor disclosure bills in wake of Householder arrest

Between July 27 and Sept. 21, Ohio state lawmakers introduced at least five separate bills dealing with disclosure requirements for donors to select nonprofit entities. All of the bills propose expanding donor disclosure requirements for select groups making political expenditures, although the specific thresholds for disclosure vary between bills.

Lawmakers introduced the legislation after the arrest of then-Speaker Larry Householder (R), who is accused of conspiring to participate in a racketeering scheme.

The proposed legislation

Three of the bills have been introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives:

  • Ohio HB737: This bill would require entities making independent expenditures to “identify the source of any amounts … received during the period since the most recently filed statement that, in the aggregate, exceed $5,000 and that were not received in the ordinary course of business and were not received in exchange for goods or services.”
    • Sponsor(s): The primary sponsors are Gayle Manning (R) and Jessica Miranda (D). Fifteen representatives have signed on as co-sponsors: four Democrats and 11 Republicans.
    • Current status: Introduced on July 27, the bill is currently pending before the House State and Local Government Committee.
    • Documents: bill textbill analysis.
  • Ohio HB739: This bill would require any entity making political expenditures to report identifying information about those who make donations explicitly for political purposes and those whose donations are directed toward the entity’s general fund (if the general fund is used to make political expenditures).
    • Sponsor(s): Democrats Bride Rose Sweeney and Allison Russo are the primary sponsors. Twenty-five representatives, all Democrats, are co-sponsors.
    • Current status: Introduced on July 27, the bill is currently pending before the House State and Local Government Committee.
    • Documents: bill textbill analysis.
  • Ohio HB762: This bill would require any entity making political expenditures to report identifying information about donors who make contributions for political purposes. An entity would not be required to disclose identifying information for other donors.
    • Sponsor(s): Republicans Diane Grendell and Mark Fraizer are the primary sponsors. Nine representatives, all Republicans, have signed on as co-sponsors
    • Current status: Grendell and Fraizer introduced the bill on Sept. 21. It has yet to be assigned to a committee.
    • Documents: bill text.

Two of the bills have been introduced in the Ohio Senate:

  • Ohio SB347: Like HB737, this bill would require entities making independent expenditures to disclose identifying information about any donor who gives more than $5,000 during a filing period if the donation is not “received in the ordinary course of business or in exchange for goods and services.”
    • Sponsor(s): Nathan Manning (R) is the bill’s primary sponsor. Nine senators, all Republicans, are co-sponsors.
    • Current status: Introduced on July 30, the bill is currently pending before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
    • Documents: bill textbill analysis.
  • Ohio SB349: Similar to HB739, this bill would require any entity making political expenditures to report identifying information about those who make donations explicitly for political purposes and those whose donations are directed toward the entity’s general fund (if the general fund is used to make political expenditures).
    • Sponsor(s): Teresa Fedor (D) is the bill’s primary sponsor. Four senators have signed on as co-sponsors: three Democrats and one Republican.
    • Current status: Introduced on Aug. 4, the bill is currently pending before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
    • Documents: bill textbill analysis.

The context

On July 21, Larry Householder (R), then-Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme. Householder is accused of collecting more than $60 million in exchange for legislation that would bail out two nuclear plants. The bail-out was valued at $1.5 billion. Four other people, including former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, were also arrested.

The federal government filed a criminal complaint against Householder and the others in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. In that complaint, Special Agent Blaine J. Wetzel (Federal Bureau of Investigation) alleged Householder received payments through a 501(c)(4) nonprofit:

To summarize, while operating together—and functioning as Householder’s ‘team’—the Defendants enriched themselves and increased Householder’s political power by: engaging in a scheme to defraud the public of the honest services of Householder, involving the receipt of millions of dollars in secret bribe payments through Householder’s 501(c)(4) account in return for Householder taking official action to help pass a legislative bailout for two nuclear power plants; bribing and attempting to bribe individuals working on behalf of the Ballot Campaign in an attempt to receive inside information and defeat the Ballot Campaign; and concealing the scheme, their illegal activity, and the source of the funds by transferring the Company A-to-Generation-Now payments through other controlled entities and knowingly engaging in monetary transactions with the proceeds.[1]

501(c)(4)s are tax-exempt nonprofits under the Internal Revenue Code. They are commonly referred to as social welfare organizations. Examples include Americans for Prosperity and Organizing for Action.

On July 30, the Ohio House voted unanimously to remove Householder from the speakership. He remains a member of the House.

On Sept. 3, Householder entered a “not guilty” plea.

What comes next?

As noted above, none of the five bills have yet advanced beyond committee.

Ohio is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate 24-9 and in the House 61-38.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 53 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Disclosure Digest map September 28, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Disclosure Digest status chart September 28, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Disclosure Digest partisan chart September 28, 2020.png
Click here to learn more.



About the author

Jerrick Adams

Jerrick Adams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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