Pubdate: Fri, 23 Oct 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


Powered by a small core of big-money investors, 
marijuana-legalization advocates outraised opponents 16-to-1 in the 
last campaign-finance reports filed before Election Day, Nov. 3.

ResponsibleOhio, the group backing state Issue 3, the 
marijuana-legalization amendment, reported having spent $15.4 million 
on the campaign, $12 million of that in the past three months. The 
group has been waging an all-out campaign dominated by 30-second 
television commercials and directmail advertising.

A report filed on Thursday with Secretary of State Jon Husted showed 
ResponsibleOhio receiving more than $11.9 million from July 1 to the 
Oct. 14 cutoff and spending about the same amount.

Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, the large coalition opposing 
legalization, got a late start and collected $712,585. The biggest 
contributor was Partnership for Ohio's Future, the Ohio Chamber of 
Commerce's electioneering arm, which gave $500,000. The chamber 
itself pitched in $100,000.

"Nothing about today's filings is surprising. We came into this 
campaign knowing we'd be outspent by millions," Curt Steiner, 
campaign director for the opposition coalition, said in a statement. 
"Our campaign's strength lies in our broad-based, grass-roots support 
from all corners of the state."

Steiner slammed the investors behind ResponsibleOhio as "a small 
group of multimillionaire hucksters."

The vast majority of donations to the organization came from nine 
investment groups, accounting for $11,966,000 in 78 donations. DGF 
LLC, owned by Frank "Bo" Wood, an investor in a proposed Clermont 
County pot farm and head of Secret Communications, a Cincinnati 
investment firm, was the largest donor at $2.35 million, according to 
the campaign-finance report.

ResponsibleOhio had 237 individual contributors who gave $7,695, in 
amounts ranging from $2 to $200.

On the expenditure side, the biggest payment, $5.8 million, went to 
Midwest Communications of Columbus for television advertising. The 
group paid $2.5 million to the Baughman Co., of Alameda, Calif., for 
direct-mail advertising, and $2.3 million to the Strategy Network, 
the manager of the campaign and the petition signature-gathering 
process. The company is co-owned by Ian James, executive director of 

The report showed that $351,000 was spent on socialmedia efforts, 
$179,000 was paid to Columbus lawyer Donald McTigue, and $165,000 was 
spent on security with a Dayton business.

James said in a statement that Ohio politicians have ignored the need 
to reform marijuana laws for two decades "even though the majority of 
Ohioans support legalization. Instead, lawmakers spent a total of 10 
days this summer to put Issue 2 on the ballot to stop the will of the people."

Issue 2 is an "anti-monopoly" amendment designed to cancel out a 
voter approval of marijuana legalization. The amendment would insert 
a two-step process into the Ohio Constitution for proposed issues 
affecting special economic interests.

James said, "Ohio's ballot-initiative process is already complicated, 
onerous and expensive, and it gets increasingly more expensive when 
state politicians do everything they can to stop voters from having 
their say on legalization."

ResponsibleOhio's previous reports showed that it raised nearly $3.5 
million and spent $3.4 million, much of it on the signature-collection effort.

Its amendment would legalize use of recreational marijuana by Ohioans 
21 or older and medical marijuana by anyone with a medical condition 
certified by a physician. As many as 1,159 marijuana shops would be 
allowed in the state, plus medical-marijuana dispensaries. Marijuana 
sales would be taxed at the wholesale and retail level. Tax revenue 
would be channeled mostly to cities, counties and townships.

Looking at another ballot issue, the payday-lending industry is the 
leading donor to the official campaign for passage of state Issue 1, 
which would reform Ohio's legislative-redistricting process.

Leaders of Fair Districts for Ohio have said fundraising has been a 
struggle, the campaign reported raising $253,000.

The biggest donation by far - $100,000 - came from the Ohio Consumer 
Lenders Association, whose members include LoanMax, Check into Cash 
and Advance America.

Other major contributions were $50,000 from the Wholesale Beer & Wine 
Association of Ohio, a frequent top legislative contributor, and 
$25,000 from the Ohio Education Association.

Dispatch Reporters Randy Ludlow and Jim Siegel contributed to this story.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom