Elections panel: Dems can keep union money

Friday, September 25, 1998

Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS -- Democrats won a major victory Thursday when the Ohio Elections Commission dismissed a GOP-filed complaint that accused them of collecting illegal campaign contributions.

"This complaint was politically motivated from the beginning," said Marc Gaunce, campaign manager for Lee Fisher, the Democratic candidate for governor. "The elections commission has done the right thing and it's what we've expected from the beginning."

Republicans are mulling an appeal and continue to criticize Democrats for accepting the funds.

"Lee Fisher plays by the same rules as Bill Clinton and Al Gore," Ohio Republican Party chairman Bob Bennett said. "Basically, their philosophy is there are no rules."

The election commission ruled 5-2 to dismiss Mr. Bennett's complaint.

The ruling allows Democrats to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars collected from organized labor during a 12-day window in July.

July reports showed that Mr. Fisher collected $84,627 during the 12-day period. Additional money also went to the Ohio Democratic Party, which does not have to disclose the source of its money until next month.

A glitch in a Republican-written campaign finance reform law made the windfall possible. Portions of the law, enacted in 1995, were struck down as unconstitutional. That law restricted the use of union dues for political contributions.

Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery appealed to Ohio's 10th District Court of Appeals and received a stay on that decision. The Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The two sides argued over whether the stay remained in effect.

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