Thank you for voting in Election 2022!

The new Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court will be Sharon Kennedy and incumbents Justice Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer were handily re-elected.

While the results maintain the partisan balance of a 4–3 Republican majority, the retiring Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor had formed a majority with the three Democratic justices in high-profile decisions, including redistricting and the rules for bail.

Because Justice Sharon Kennedy was elected in 2022 as Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, her seat on the court became vacant. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine appointed Joseph T. Deters, the longest-tenured prosecutor in Hamilton County to fill the vacancy. Deters was sworn in on January 7, 2023 to fill her unexpired term and must run for election in 2024. Deters comes to the bench with no judicial experience. He is, however, a family friend of Governor DeWine.

O’Connor has big plans for her retirement including taking on gerrymandering by taking the mapmaking out of the hands of elected officials by establishing an independent citizens commission.

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What happened during the election?

While it wasn’t hard to find the contributors to the candidates’ campaigns on the Secretary of State’s website, it was difficult to “follow the money” to those independent groups.  It was possible to find affiliated organizations but the source of the funding for the ads was opaque. If contribution information was available, it was outdated or often failed to identify the original source of the money.  

Simply put: “dark money” or secret money overwhelmed spending by candidates on TV, radio, social media, and mailers. 

Check out the ads and our attempt to find out about donors.

Some of the ads like the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative and the Ohioans for a Healthy Economy focused on crime and painted horrifying pictures of rampant crime and families in danger. Forward Justice put out an ad questioning a decision about a victim of ongoing child sexual assault.   

There were radio ads featuring Grammy winner John Legend and ads that highlighted the impact of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

What’s next? 

It’s time to shine a light on dark money! Individuals and groups take pains to make it hard to see who is paying for ads by using SuperPACs and nonprofit entities to hide the source of funding. This makes it difficult for voters to figure out which candidates share their values and will work to promote the voter’s interests—not the interests of the dark money donors. 

Secret money in elections can hide conflicts of interest and can obscure the influence of the wealthy on courts and other elected officials. One of the ways you can help is by joining us in calling for greater transparency in lobbying and elections by supporting and strengthening House Bill 16. 

Call to Action: Support and Strengthen the Ohio Ethics and Financial Disclosure Reform Act (H.B. 16)

House Bill 16, the Ethics and Financial Disclosure Reform Act — introduced in February 2023 by Representative Derek Merrin — improves rules for disclosure and transparency, bringing Ohio to the same reporting standards of many other states. Reforms in this bill include:

  • Requiring all lobbying income to be reported and sourced directly to the clients being represented.
  • Requiring nominees to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to disclose any income and previous business relationships regulated by the Commission.
  • Prohibiting statewide elected officials getting paid to serve on corporate boards.
  • Requiring candidate and elected official financial disclosure statements to be posted online.

Rep Merrin’s bill is a good start, but it could be better. Common Cause Ohio recommends the following additional structural reforms to strengthen this bill:

  • Require political nonprofits and other corporate groups to disclose their donors and spending.
  • Provide public access to records at Ohio’s bill-writing agency, the Legislative Service Commission (LSC).
  • Require entities that engage in political advertising to report the expenditure and to identify themselves in the advertisement.

We need disclosure, transparency and laws that shine light on who is writing and promoting legislation. Please write to your representatives right now and urge them to support and strengthen H.B. 16, the Ohio Ethics and Financial Disclosure Reform Act.

During the next election, Common Cause Ohio and the Ohio Fair Courts Alliance will continue to “follow the money.”  Stay tuned!