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Ohio House sends Biden ballot, foreign campaign money bills to Senate

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(The Center Square) – The Ohio House approved in special session Thursday what it said was a compromise between House and Senate Republicans that would prohibit foreign contributions to any political campaign and create a legislative fix to allow President Joe Biden on the November ballot.

The two bills come despite the Democratic National Committee saying Tuesday it would hold a roll call vote ahead of the planned late-August convention to officially nominate Biden and beat Ohio’s Aug. 7 deadline to make the general election.

“What we’re trying to do here, folks, is to ferret out the evil construct of foreign money on our elections. This is a mighty good thing,” Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said on the House floor. “It is a dangerous world out there. The Chinese are busy hacking our systems. There are many other countries around the world that are not our friends, and we believe Ohioans should decide ballot elections with money that comes from Americans.”

Ohio law already bans foreign money from going to candidates. The new bill adds statewide ballot initiatives to the prohibited list but does not include local ballot issues.

Republicans also amended the bill on the floor to ban legal foreign nationals with green cards from contributing to political campaigns.

Not only would House Bill 1, which Republicans passed along party lines 64-31, ban foreign campaign contributions to issue campaigns or candidates, but it would also ban foreign money to issues that have not been certified to be on the ballot. It also allows the attorney general to investigate and prosecute potential cases.

Dani Isaacsohn, D-Cincinnati, said the bill creates an atmosphere of fear among Ohioans and is a power grab by the attorney general. He said Democrats would have supported a clean bill that matched a federal law that already bans foreign money.

“This bill creates an incredibly confusing and broad set of potential violations,” Isaacsohn said. “This bill is an affront to the people of Ohio. This bill is an attack at the root of our Democratic process.”

During the special session, Democrats in the House and Senate pushed for a clean bill that dealt only with Biden’s appearance on the ballot.

House Bill 2, which passed 63-31, extends the deadline for major party presidential candidates to appear on the November ballot in 2024.

Gov. Mike DeWine, who last week called the Legislature into special session for the first time in a decade to deal with the Biden and foreign money issues, said Thursday he would sign both bills as soon as they reached his desk.

“I thank the House Committee for this morning advancing the two bills which will put President Biden on the fall ballot and which will restrict foreign contributions to Ohio campaigns. I urge the bills’ passage and remain optimistic I will receive these bills to sign in the coming days,” DeWine said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the Senate approved a bill introduced in regular session that did the same things as the House’s two bills. On Wednesday, House Republicans called the Senate’s actions unconstitutional and questioned the legality of voting on regular session bills in the special session.

The Senate had not scheduled a session for Thursday but could meet on Friday, although no full session was on the calendar for Thursday afternoon.

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