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Sides spend millions on Ohio's union-limiting law

By Ann Sanner
Associated Press / October 27, 2011

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COLUMBUS, Ohio—The union-backed group pushing for the repeal of Ohio's new collective bargaining law has spent more than $17.3 million in the fight and has another $4.3 million on hand heading into the Nov. 8 election.

Campaign finance reports filed Thursday show We Are Ohio has raised a whopping $19 million from July to mid-October.

The coalition wants to overturn the law, which bans strikes by public worker and restricts their collective bargaining rights.

A group defending the law reported raising $7.6 million for the period and spending almost $6 million through its political action committee. Building a Better Ohio's nonprofit also released names of its donors, but not the amounts they gave.

Insiders have predicted the ballot fight could cost more than the $33 million spent in last year's governor's race.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Groups campaigning over whether to keep or toss out Ohio's new collective bargaining law planned Thursday to release new details about their fundraising.

Campaign finance reports were to be filed with the state Thursday by the union-backed coalition We Are Ohio. The coalition wants to overturn the law that bans public worker strikes and restricts the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. The reports will show the group's spending and its cash available for the remaining days before the Nov. 8 election.

Few details were expected Thursday from the side defending the law.

Building a Better Ohio's spokesman says the group will release a list of its donors, but not the amount they're giving.

The Republican-backed Building a Better Ohio group is not required to say who contributes to it because of its status as a nonprofit corporation, whereas We Are Ohio is a political action committee that by state law has to publicly disclose on Thursday its spending, donors and their contributions.

Building a Better Ohio also has a political action committee. The nonprofit would have to report the money it transfers to that committee, though not details about its donors. Its political committee would have to disclose any other contributions or spending.

The law's backers have other allies, including the business community, who are advocating that the law remain in place. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business in Ohio, and the Ohio Business Roundtable have endorsed the campaign to defend the law. The Virginia-based Alliance for America's Future has also sent mailers urging Ohio voters to keep the law.

Insiders have predicted the ballot fight could cost more than the $33 million spent in last year's governor's race.

According to the latest filings from July, We Are Ohio has collected nearly $7 million for its campaign. Unions were among the top donors. AFSCME International and the Communications Workers of America each gave $1 million. Another $750,000 came from the national AFL-CIO.

Both sides of the ballot fight have been flooding the airwaves with statewide TV ads that seek to sway Ohioans to vote yes or no on the referendum known as Issue 2.

More than half of Ohio voters surveyed in a poll released this week said they want the law to be overturned. The Quinnipiac University poll shows that 57 percent of registered Ohio voters want to repeal the law, while 32 percent want to keep it.

The law signed by Gov. John Kasich in late March limits the collective bargaining rights of more than 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees. Workers could negotiate on wages, but not on their pension or health care benefits.