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Ohio Chamber Lies and Hides Election Buys

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The Ohio Chamber of Commerce will not reveal the list of individuals and corporations that have funded its election campaign in the Buckeye State, despite having promised to do so in a public hearing.

In Columbus on Monday, November 1, Cliff Arnebeck, lead attorney for the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville election theft lawsuit, argued in a racketeering complaint in front of the Ohio Elections Commission that the Partnership for Ohio's Future, an affiliate of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, should disclose its secret donors. We are co-counsel and plaintiff in the King-Lincoln suit.

Arnebeck argued that former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove and the Chamber of Commerce are illegally coordinating donations in Ohio. While the recent Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision allows for unlimited contributions from independent campaign organizations, it does not allow coordination between candidates and independent committees.

The Chamber spent more than $3 million in this year's general election cycle to elect two Supreme Court justices, Judith Lanzinger and Maureen O'Connor, running for Chief Justice. The Chamber reported spending $1.45 million on TV ads alone. The Chamber's $3 million dwarfed the campaign funds of the two candidates, since neither have raised $1 million.

Over the past four election cycles, the Chamber has made public its list of campaign donors. There's been an ongoing struggle between the Chamber and its critics to list individual donors to the U.S. and Ohio Chambers, instead of their practice of listing lump-sum totals attributed to both Chambers.

Brad Smith, the Chamber's Chief Counsel, promised in front of the Ohio Election Commission that the Chamber would produce the names of the donors it has failed to disclose this year.

Formerly nominated by Bill Clinton to the Federal Election Commission, he chaired the Commission in 2004 under the Bush administration. Smith told the four-person Ohio Election Commission panel that "anyone who wants the list" of donors to the Chamber's election campaigning could have it.

In his "ten-second rebuttal" before the Election Commisson's Probable Cause panel, Smith complained that Arnebeck never asked him for the list.

In the hall after the hearing, Linda Woggan, the Chamber's Vice President for Governmental Affairs, promised Arnebeck that she would provide the list of secret donors as well.

Arnebeck specifically asked for the list in electronic form so it could be disseminated to the media prior to Election Day.

In the wake of Smith's promise, the Commission voted 3-1 to deny Arnebeck's probable cause motion demanding that list. Arnebeck called Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who agreed to have subpoenas issued to the Chamber and its affiliates. Brunner, in her capacity of secretary of state, is the party being sued in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville case, replacing former Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

Following the hearing, Arnebeck, under the auspices of the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal case, then served subpoenas on the Partnership, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber's Educational Foundation, as well as Woggon and Chamber President Andrew Doehrel at 11:30am at the Chamber building. The subpoenas demanded the names of the secret donors by 2pm.

Arnebeck has long maintained that the Chamber's activities since the 2000 election year function as an ongoing illegal money laundering operation to take over Ohio's Supreme Court. Documents submitted at the Commission hearing show the key role of former Ohio Governor Bob Taft in soliciting the secret donations through the Chamber of Commerce.

At 1:30pm, Smith called Arnebeck and assured him that the list of donors would be produced by 2pm, or no later than 3pm.

At 3:30pm, a courier delivered to Arnebeck the Chamber's official response: a motion to quash the subpoenas, and to keep secret the Chamber's donor list.

Despite Smith's quite public promise to deliver the names of donors, he argued in his motion to quash the subpoenas that: "The information sought from these non-party witnesses is not relevant to this matter, nor reasonably intended to lead to the production of admissible evidence."

In moving to quash, Smith argued that "the subpoenas seek substantially the same information he [Arnebeck] had earlier requested from the Ohio Elections Commission." Smith failed to note that he had publicly promised to hand the list over before the Commission.

On Sunday, October 24, Arnebeck had served Karl Rove with a subpoena requiring him to testify in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville case concerning civil rights violations in the 2004 Ohio election.

Rove continues to work closely with national Chamber of Commerce chair Tom Donohue. Rove, Donohue and others have made clear their commitment to carrying Ohio for the Republican Party.

Arnebeck asserts their coordination with GOP candidates is a violation of federal election law.

However those charges play out, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce will not be telling the public who has funded its election campaigning efforts before the close of voting November 2.

Smith also has requested sanctions against Mr. Arnebeck because of the unreasonable request on the Chamber: "...particularly in light of Mr. Arnebeck's claim this morning at the Ohio Elections Commission that the information was needed by this afternoon to prevent "a coup" against the U.S. government."

Arnebeck's coup reference was in relation to his allegation that Rove and the Chamber are involved in an unprecedented secret and coordinated money laundering operation to shift U.S. and state politics to Republican control.

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Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection at Free Press, where the Fitrakis Files also appear. Harvey Wasserman's History of the U.S. is at Harvey Wasserman. They are co-counsel and plaintiff in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville lawsuit.