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HomeWorldLawsuit challenges Ohio law banning foreign nationals from donating to ballot campaigns

Lawsuit challenges Ohio law banning foreign nationals from donating to ballot campaigns

Columbus, Ohio — A new law that bans foreigners and green card holders from contributing to Ohio election campaigns curtails constitutionally protected rights to free speech and association, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday.

Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed the measure June 2, after lawmakers linked to a bill with a higher profile adjusting Ohio’s election calendar to ensure Democratic President Joe Biden would appear on the November ballot.

Attorneys from Elias Law Group, a leading Democratic law firm, and Cooper Elliott told the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio that HB 1 would “unconstitutionally stifle public debate by enforcing new broad and sweeping bans” on spending for ballots. .

“Because of HB 1, all noncitizens are now threatened with investigation, criminal prosecution, and mandatory fines if they even indicate that they intend to make election-related expenditures or contributions — including supporting or opposing ballot questions in virtually any capacity,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit argues that the law, which goes into effect on September 1, violates both the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

It was filed on behalf of OPAWL – Building AAPI Feminist Leadership, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, a German citizen and her husband who live in Cleveland, and a Canadian citizen who lives in Silver Lake, a suburb of Kent. OPAWL is a grassroots organization of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women and nonbinary people living in the state.

Republicans in the Statehouse defended the ban on foreign donations to fund campaigns after a series of ballot measures failed to go their way. Voters overwhelmingly sided with GOP leaders last year on three separate ballot measures, including protecting abortion access in the state constitution, rolling back a proposal to make it harder to pass such constitutional amendments in the future and legalizing recreational marijuana.

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Political committees involved in the first two attempts took money from entities that had received donations from Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyssalthough any direct path from him to the Ohio campaigns is untraceable under campaign finance laws that are not addressed in Ohio law. Wyss lives in Wyoming.

John Fortney, a spokesman for Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, a Republican, argued that the lawsuit’s filing shows Democrats’ reliance on donations from wealthy foreigners.

“The Ohio Constitution is not for sale, despite the progressive left’s un-American sellout to foreign influence,” he said in a statement.

A decision to include green card holders in the ban was made in the House of Representatives against the advice of third-ranking Republican House member Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati attorney, who voted against the amendment.

Seitz cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said extending such bans to green card holders would raise “substantial questions” about constitutionality.

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