Anonymous Campaign Funds Nothing New for William Todd
(from The Toledo Blade)
Tax reformists get cash infusion
Anonymous funds back Blackwell group
TUESDAY, AUGUST 2, 2005
COLUMBUS - A newly created nonprofit group has anonymously funneled nearly a quarter million dollars into an initiative seeking a constitutional amendment to restrict state spending.
Citizens for Tax Reform, the ballot initiative fronted by Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, has received five contributions totaling $225,000 from Ohioans for Responsible Government, incorporated in March by a pair of lobbyists and an attorney in Columbus.
The contributions represent 75 percent of the total $304,584 received by Tax Reform during the first six months of the year, according to a campaign expense report filed Friday with Mr. Blackwell's office.
Incorporation documents filed with the secretary of state's office list the three directors of the new Ohioans for Responsible Government as Tom Whatman, lobbyist and former executive director of the Ohio Republican Party; lobbyist Tom Needles; and attorney William Todd.
Among Mr. Needles' clients is industrialist and charter school magnate David Brennan's White Hat Management.
Mr. Todd previously represented Citizens for a Strong Ohio and Informed Citizens of Ohio, the business-backed groups that anonymously financed TV ads supporting Republican candidates for Ohio Supreme Court in 2000 and 2002. One of the co-founders of the latter group was Mr. Brennan.
Mr. Brennan's name is also one of four appearing on petitions being circulated in support of the proposed Tax and Expenditure Limitation Amendment.
"This is a very small organization of engaged citizens who are interested in various education and public policy issues," said Mr. Needles. He declined to discuss the major financial backers of the organization.
When asked specifically about Mr. Brennan, he said, "Mr. Brennan has long been involved in public policy issues. He's well aware of the [Tax Reform] organization and supports its work."
The Blackwell group plans to file petitions before the Aug. 10 deadline to place the proposed amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot. If approved, it would, short of an emergency declaration, limit annual state spending growth to the rate of inflation plus an adjustment for population growth.
The controversial ballot issue has divided the General Assembly and is opposed as too restrictive by Gov. Bob Taft. It's being pushed by Mr. Blackwell and conservative lawmakers who've challenged spending growth and accompanying tax increases in recent years, particularly a temporary penny-sales tax surcharge, half of which lawmakers recently made permanent.
"A ballot issue committee may accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor unions, and nonprofit associations," said Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo.
He noted Tax Reform voluntarily disclosed its contributions at this stage. Normally such an organization would not be mandated to disclose until after the filing deadline.
But Responsible Government, which has received tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, does not have to report the sources of its revenue, at least not until well after the election.
Catherine Turcer, of government watchdog Ohio Citizen Action, said it's disingenuous to suggest Tax Reform has voluntarily disclosed when the origins of 75 percent of its money remain unknown.
"They have voluntarily given us enough information to know that we have no information," she said. "That makes us more suspicious."
Tax Reform spokesman Gene Pierce said he has no way of knowing the sources of Responsible Government's money.
"Ken is committed to full disclosure," said Mr. Pierce. "He has advocated in the General Assembly that everyone should disclose where they get their money. Are you going to punish us for putting the information out there?"
He noted that the Coalition for Ohio's Future, groups opposing the ballot initiative, has not been required to report anything on its efforts and won't have to until after the issue is approved for the ballot.
"They could spend $1 million before the filing date, and the public will never know," he said.
Coalition spokesman Jenny Camper said the organization will fully disclose when the reporting deadline arrives.
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.