Labor groups funneled more than $40 million last year to We Are Ohio, the Super PAC formed to repeal legislation limiting government workers’ collective bargaining privileges. During the same period, individual Ohioans contributed only $440,652.68, although We Are Ohio bills itself as “citizen-driven.” And while We Are Ohio claims to be “community-based,” more than $20 million in union donations came from outside Ohio.
Labor organizations accounted for over 95 percent of the total $42.1 million raised by We Are Ohio in 2011. The group also advertises itself as “bipartisan,” but contributions from the Ohio Democratic Party totaled $925,995.24 — more than twice the amount given by Ohio individuals.
We Are Ohio published its first press release on April 15, 2011, announcing, “We Are Ohio is fueled by a citizen-driven, broad-based coalition of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, businesses, pastors, workers, employees, and others.” But during the previous week, We Are Ohio collected $2.75 million from D.C. unions and just $100 from Ohio individuals.
Although We Are Ohio revised its tagline slightly in the months that followed, the union-driven funding trend continued. By the end of 2011, unions outside Ohio had given the group over $20 million. Total donations from Big Labor exceeded Ohio individuals’ contributions by a ratio of 91:1.
NPR’s StateImpact Ohio, one of the few media outlets to focus on We Are Ohio’s finances, highlighted the organization’s union-dominated funding in August and October. Throughout the Senate Bill 5 referendum campaign, media coverage generally relayed without question We Are Ohio’s description of itself, citing out-of-state union spending in a way that suggested parity between Senate Bill 5 opponents and supporters.
Campaign finance records are easily retrieved from the Ohio Secretary of State, but only StateImpact Ohio lent the appropriate amount of attention to the millions in union dollars flowing into a state issue campaign’s coffers. Presented with any measure of perspective, it becomes clear We Are Ohio is not citizen-driven, community-based, or bipartisan, but is in fact a union Super PAC.
[Editor’s note, 11/19/2012: Corrected the paragraph following the graph to reflect that a total of $100 – as opposed to $0 – had been contributed by Ohio individuals through 04/15/2011.]