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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 7, 2005

Effort to reveal Issue 1 backers ends in starting gate

Columbus--An effort to reveal the financial backers of the campaign to pass Ohio�s anti-marriage amendment last November has been ended before it received any hearing.

The complaint against anti-gay crusader Phil Burress� financing of his campaign for Issue 1 was withdrawn from the Ohio Elections Commission December 29 by the man who filed it.

Burress is hiding the identity of the campaign�s contributors by passing the money through his other non-profit enterprises that aren�t required to disclose them by Ohio election law. He says it is legal to do this.

Paul Fogarty of Columbus withdrew his complaint against Burress a week before the commission was scheduled to hear it �because he didn�t want to be involved any more,� according to his attorney Rick Brunner.

The complaint was filed with the commission October 25, immediately after the pre-election campaign finance reports were filed with Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.

It named the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, the group that campaigned for Issue 1, Burress, and his other operations Citizens for Community Values and Citizens for Community Values Action. Also named was CCV vice president David Miller, who is OCPM�s treasurer.

The complaint says that the campaign finance report filed by OCPM is �not a full and true statement which sets forth in detail the contributions and expenditures made by OCPM in connection with Issue 1.�

Fogarty based his complaint on OCPM�s report that, in the period ending October 13, it had run its entire statewide campaign on $790 of in-kind contributions from CCV, a tax-exempt non-profit, $2,626 in-kind contributions from CCV Action, a non-profit able to do limited political work, and $50 cash from Burress, which it did not spend.

At the same time, CCV Action separately paid $725,678 to circulate the petitions that put the measure on the ballot, outside of the reporting law.

The post-election report filed by OCPM in December was similar, showing only 212 individual contributors to the campaign, most in amounts under $50.

Most of the funds for the campaign came from CCV Action, which isn�t required to reveal its donors. By Burress� admission, this was done to prevent disclosure of their identities.

Burress told the Cincinnati Enquirer that his contributors wished to remain anonymous for fear of receiving hate mail.

Ohio election law requires that contributors to political campaigns must be disclosed. Had the commission found that CCV Action acted as a proxy for the campaign committee, it could have ordered further investigation including criminal prosecution.

Brunner said once Fogarty decided he didn�t want to be a part of the case, �No one else stepped forward to be a plaintiff.�

Neither Fogarty nor his partner, restaurateur Tom Grote, were available for comment by press time.

Case strengthened by other ruling

According to Brunner, Fogarty�s case was made stronger by a ruling in a similar but unrelated one.

The Tenth Ohio District Court of Appeals held that the Ohio Chamber of Commerce must disclose contributors to its non-profit organization that were used to run a campaign against Justice Alice Robie Resnick in 2000.

The court reasoned that the chamber�s non-profit acted as a campaign committee, and should be subjected to the disclosure requirements.

The Ohio Supreme Court on December 27 declined to hear an appeal of the ruling, which also included a $25,000-per-day fine.

The chamber also filed suit in federal court saying the Ohio court rulings violated their First Amendment rights.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court January 4 that the case should be dismissed, letting the Ohio court order to disclose the donors stand.

 

 

 

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