In an effort to institute greater accountability in campaign finance, the Ohio House of Representatives concurred on Senate changes to Substitute House Bill 326, which imposes a criminal penalty on public officials who knowingly use public funds for political purposes.

This legislation—which was jointly sponsored by State Representatives Jeff McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) and Brian Hill (R-Zanesville)—institutes a penalty of a first-degree misdemeanor, similar to the penalty for other campaign finance law violations. According to current Ohio law, it is illegal to use tax dollars for political purposes but does not include a criminal penalty.

“House Bill 326 holds public officials accountable for abuse of public dollars and violation of Ohio’s campaign finance laws,” said Representative McClain. “I’m pleased that the Legislature worked cooperatively to pass this bill and help protect the public purse.”

“This is another example of the House’s efforts to put Ohioans first and ensure that our government is transparent and accountable,” Representative Hill said. “This is simply a policy of good government that serves the people, first and foremost.”

The need for House Bill 326 came to light after a recent audit of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) revealed that in 2007 and 2008, TARTA illegally loaned nearly $67,000 to Citizens for TARTA, the political action committee that gathers resources to fund TARTA levy campaigns.

Concurrence on Sub. H.B. 326 passed with strong bipartisan support and now awaits Governor Kasich’s signature.

Watch this video of Rep. McClain discussing the bill:


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