Issue 1, A BailOut for Polluters?

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"Report suggests campaign donors influenced Issue 1

COLUMBUS - An analysis of campaign contributions released Friday by a top Ohio consumer group suggested a triangle of influence, power and payouts associated with Issue 1, Gov. Bob Taft s environmental bond act.

The ballot initiative would establish a $400 million Clean Ohio Fund. Half would go to "green" projects such as parks, watersheds and farmland preservation, and half would go to contaminated urban properties known as brownfields.

The report, issued by Ohio Citizen Action, suggests a cadre of 38 law firms, banks and other institutions - a number of whom the group says either represent polluters or themselves own brownfields sites - have gained influence over how Issue 1 will be carried out through political contributions.

"We said all along this will be a bailout for polluters, and this is just more evidence," said Citizen Action's Jane Forrest Redfern.

Combined, the institutions contributed $3.5 million to top state officials campaigns since 1997, the analysis found. Nearly $590,000 went to Taft, Attorney General Betty Montgomery and Treasurer Joseph Deters - all influential in choosing firms to oversee the bonds ..."


NEWS ARTICLE from The Associated Press, 10-27-00

"Businesses put money behind State Issue 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Opponents of State Issue 1 say a campaign finance report is evidence that companies that could profit from the issue's approval are the primary backers of the proposal, not citizens.

Passage of the issue would allow Ohio to sell bonds to help clean up abandoned industrial sites and set aside green space for parks and other recreational uses.

Citizens for a Clean Ohio was formed to urge voter approval of Issue 1. Its campaign finance report filed Thursday showed that it had raised $504,825 from April 8 to Oct. 18. Of the 54 contributions listed, 10 were made by individuals.

More than 80 percent of the money for the pro-Issue 1 campaign came from industrial companies, electric utilities, construction and development interests and banks that plan to compete for the bond issue.

Most of the money came from large industries, consultants and banks, said Jane Forrest Redfern, Ohio Citizen Action's environmental project director.

"The biggest shocker was that 38 percent of the dollars are from out-of-state construction and consulting firms," Forrest Redfern said ...

The ballot initiative would not raise taxes, but would cost taxpayers $214 million in interest payments over the life of the bonds ...

Those giving $25,000 included Gov. Bob Taft's inaugural committee; Ruscilli Construction Co., of Columbus; Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp.; Keybank National Association, of Toledo, Gilbane Building Co., of Providence, R.I., and Columbus-based American Electric Power.

"We think it's a good move to help boost economic development in the state," said Pat Hemlapp, an AEP spokesman.

Environmental groups that oppose the proposal say the list of contributors to the pro-Issue 1 campaign should make voters think twice about supporting the proposal.

"The major polluters know a good deal when they see one," said Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action ... "

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