Reporting tips for local ballot issue spending

Much has been written about campaign spending and disclosures – analyzing every tier of government from the federal level to city hall. Now at the close of another election season, it may be helpful to review a potentially overlooked aspect of campaign spending and disclosure: corporate spending in support or opposition of a local ballot measure.

Ohio law permits a corporation to support a ballot issue political action committee (PAC) or levy committee or to spend independently to support or oppose a local ballot measure. Either way, the law requires an itemization of the corporate expenditures.

This is where the reporting can get tricky. Expenditures are often considered direct spending (i.e., a monetary contribution, purchasing yard signs, advertising, consulting fees, etc.). However, the definition of expenditure can also include internal staff time or the use of office resources dedicated to supporting or opposing the ballot issue. Compliant reporting is accomplished when the Ohio Secretary of State’s 30-B-1Form (for contributions to support a PAC or levy committee) or 30-B-2 Form (when the corporation acts independently or there is no established PAC) is filed with the board of elections in the county where the issue is to appear on the ballot.

As always, strong record keeping and organization is the best way to avoid any reporting issues. Additionally, filers may find it easier to report the expenditures as they occur, as opposed to filing only on the prescribed deadlines.

While these considerations will likely be helpful for those supporting or opposing local ballot measures, bear in mind that some charter cities have their own campaign finance restrictions and disclosure requirements in addition to state requirements.

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