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Ohio's leaders blocked (some) foreign money from issue campaigns. Advocates call it a dog-whistle • Ohio Capital Journal

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Ohio's leaders blocked (some) foreign money from issue campaigns. Advocates call it a dog-whistle • Ohio Capital Journal


Ohio’s Republican leadership last month refused to put Joe Biden on the presidential ballot unless the legislature adopted another measure that they claimed would protect against foreign money playing a role in the process by which citizens can initiate laws.

But while some surely were concerned about malign foreigners improperly influencing state policy, some of them seemed to be playing on the same trumped-up fear of foreigners that they do in other contexts.

When earlier problems arose with putting presidential candidates of both parties on the ballot, the legislature passed a “clean” bill fixing the problem as a routine matter.

Moreover, with this latest law, Ohio lawmakers did nothing to bring transparency to dark money, which is flooding the state and can come from any source. It can be from foreigners, organized crime or interested parties — all unbeknownst to the electorate whose laws are being impacted. Such dark money played an indispensable role in the largest bribery scandal in Ohio — a scandal in which many of those same Ohio leaders played a part.

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In addition, critics said the move was really intended to make it more difficult for citizens to impose popular measures that the state’s gerrymandered supermajority opposes, such as protecting abortion rights and ending gerrymandering. As part of that, they said, it gives the state attorney general — who since 2011 has been a Republican — greatly enhanced powers to harass citizen-led attempts to change the law.

Xenophobia

Advocates for immigrants and others say that in pushing their “ban” on foreign money, some Republican leaders are playing on the anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant paranoia that Donald Trump has relentlessly whipped up since announcing his candidacy to be president in 2015.

The new legislation not only bans contributions from foreign nationals, it also bans them from lawful permanent residents, or “green card” holders. That’s despite the fact that federal law allows such people to make contributions, and Bill Seitz, an attorney and a Republican member of the Ohio House, warned his colleagues that the prohibition could sink the entire measure in court.

To an immigrant advocate, the dog whistle was easily audible.

“They know what they’re doing, the people who are sponsoring these amendments,” said Lynn Tramonte, director of the Ohio Immigrant Alliance. “They’re making this about people who were born in other countries and adding on new categories of immigrants to be banned from donating money. The legislator who introduced that amendment knows that that makes it open to legal challenge. That was very clear. Both sides — Republicans and Democrats — expect that law to be challenged in court. So it was clearly not about the policy. It was about getting those headlines.”

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Some of the amendment’s staunchest supporters haven’t been shy about using such tactics.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose was the first to flag the fact that the Democratic National Convention was too late to get Biden on the ballot under Ohio law. But instead of calling for a clean bill that would only fix that as the legislature had done in the past, LaRose had other demands.

“Ohioans deserve confidence in the integrity of our elections, knowing that they aren’t being bought by foreign bullies or billionaires,” LaRose said in a May press release. “I hope the House does the right thing and takes action soon to close this loophole before it’s exploited again.”

Other motives

LaRose was referring to a Swiss billionaire who had made big contributions to the Tides Foundation, a U.S. group that helped finance Ohio voter efforts last year. 

One trounced an August attempt by LaRose and his allies to make it nearly impossible for citizens to initiate amendments to the Ohio Constitution. Then, in November, voters passed an amendment protecting abortion rights by a 14-point margin. LaRose had earlier told an audience of partisans that the August effort was 100% about stopping the abortion-rights measure in November.

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It’s not the only time LaRose, the state’s top elections official, has pressed a fear of foreigners into the service of what appear to be ulterior motives. 

For example, he’s conducted frequent voter purges, supposedly in the service of election integrity. Last year, he tried to make a splash by announcing that he had referred 641 cases of possible voter fraud to authorities.

Sounds like a lot, but that’s only 0.0044% of the total votes cast. And when the Capital Journal did a follow-up investigation, less than 3% of those resulted in charges.

In other words, just 0.000132% of the total number of votes cast since LaRose took office in 2019 might end in convictions. Yet LaRose last month announced yet another voter purge, claiming the threat of foreigners casting illegal ballots was why it was needed.

“Ohioans overwhelmingly passed an amendment to our state Constitution which makes it clear that only U.S. citizens can vote in our elections,” LaRose said in a May 14 press release. “It is my duty under the law to uphold the Constitution, and the legislature has explicitly tasked me with ensuring that only eligible citizens can register and vote.”

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Spreading fear

Elizabeth Neumann was deputy chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration. 

During a virtual press conference sponsored by the National Immigration Forum last week, she described how the “great replacement theory” — the idea that there’s a plot to replace white people, especially in positions of power — has led to numerous racist massacres. She said that whipping up fears of illegal voting is a softer version of the same theory that shooters invoked as they massacred people in Christchurch, New Zealand, a Walmart in El Paso, a Pittsburgh synagogue, and a Buffalo grocery store.

“There’s a lot of conversation about how migrants are actually voting and this goes into that softer great-replacement theory and we anticipate that will continue to be a challenge this election year,” said Neumann, who is now chief strategy officer for Moonshot, which works to end online harms such as violent extremism and child trafficking.

Tramonte, of the immigrant alliance, said the real aim of claims of illegal voting and purges and prosecutions is to scare marginal populations away from the polls. She said she helped conduct a focus group before last November’s election.

“I heard from people who were citizens who said they were afraid to vote because they were afraid of being attacked,” she said. “They had a plan to go early in the morning and make sure they could get their vote cast because they wanted to make sure their voices were heard, but they were afraid.”

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In addition to not effectively addressing the problem of mystery money in our politics and making it harder and more frightening to participate in the process, there could be a darker consequence of the rhetoric around the bill Republicans demanded in exchange for putting a sitting president on the Ohio ballot.

In an interview, Moonshot analyst Yuri Neves said that political leaders are invoking conspiracy theories when they insinuate that green card holders have a diabolical agenda or that masses of undocumented immigrants are voting illegally. 

“It suggests some coordinated plan by nefarious actors,” he said. “Depending on who you talk to, it’s globalists, Jews, etc. When we say it’s a conspiracy theory, it’s not just demographic changes happening as there always are. It’s that it’s some malevolent actors behind it. And that’s where it gets quite dangerous.”

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Ohio cannabis festival hiring joint-rolling judges at high hourly rate

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Ohio cannabis festival hiring joint-rolling judges at high hourly rate


View a Yellow Springs growing facility’s inaugural crop of recreational marijuana in the video player above.

POMEROY, Ohio (WCMH) — As an Ohio cannabis festival prepares for launch, it’s also looking to make multiple hires with a high pay grade.

Chad Thompson, the organizer behind the Stargazer Cannabis Festival, told NBC4 that he was planning to hire multiple judges for the event’s joint-rolling contest on July 27. The festival, weeks away from its inaugural three-day run at Wisteria Campground, is taking place in the first full year that Ohio has legalized recreational marijuana, and a little over a month after the state opened applications for sales at dual-use dispensaries. Thompson launched the job posting online late Monday.

“There’s two divisions, a classic division and artistic division,” Thompson said. “And in both of those divisions, one of the criteria is, ‘How does it smoke?’ The potential smokability.”

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While the classic division will focus on traditional joints, Thompson said the artistic division could see intricately designed joints shaped like “tanks, cars and birds.” He also broke down several other factors the judges would be expected to review, as well as the eyebrow-raising dollar amount offered for their time.

“We’re going to be checking for the draw of the joint and the joint stability, like checking for runs and so forth and all that’s going to go into the judging process,” Thompson said. “And we’re hoping that the pay will be enough to get a large pool of potential candidates. … We are paying $100 an hour, you know, to just smoke joints.”

That hourly rate won’t be for a short span either, according to Thompson. He estimated the judging would take “a couple hours, if not more,” and for that reason the applicants need to be experienced beyond casual users.

“If they’re somebody who smokes maybe once a month, maybe they might not be the best person,” Thompson said. “But you know, if they’re a pretty regular smoker, I think they’ll be able to handle it.”

Thompson previously clarified that no vendors at the festival — spanning July 26 to 28 — would be selling recreational marijuana, and a farmer’s market at the event would mainly sell hemp-derived products. However, he did note recreational marijuana will still have a presence at Stargazer in other forms. Vendors will be allowed to sell cannabis seeds, legal even at the federal level, and with which Ohioans can grow up to six plants under the state’s current law.

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Festival-goers will be allowed to use their homegrown marijuana at the campgrounds as well, including in the joint-rolling contest.

“It’d be completely legal to be homegrown cannabis, or they may roll it with hemp or they may not, I’m not gonna ask,” Thompson said. “I’m sure that there will be attendees that have legal cannabis with THC and will be consuming it, but there’s going to be no person-to-person sales.”

He also noted that while festival tickets are still available online, they have been selling quickly. Thompson told NBC4 that the Stargazer team would have to decide whether to sell tickets on the weekend of the event “based on capacity,” but did say that they are no longer accepting new food vendor applications.

“If you definitely want to get into Stargazer, you definitely should buy your ticket as soon as possible,” Thompson said. “If you wait, there will be a likely chance you will not get in. I’m getting calls from all over the region.”

Thompson said applicants interested in applying to become joint-rolling judges, or just buying standard tickets, should visit the Stargazer festival website, and scroll all the way to the bottom for a link to the event’s job postings.

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Car catches fire following crash in Ohio; 2 left in serious condition

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Car catches fire following crash in Ohio; 2 left in serious condition


DEFIANCE, Ohio (WANE) — Two are in serious condition after a flatbed trailer ran a stop sign, hitting another car in Defiance Monday evening.

According to a release from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, at 5:15 p.m. Monday, officers were called to the intersection of Mansfield Road and Schubert Road on calls of an injury crash.

When officers arrived they found a flatbed trailer, driven by 45-year-old, Eugene Anderson of Gary, Ind., traveling westbound had run a stop sign and hit another car. Following the crash, the car, driven by a 17-year-old, caught fire on the side of the roadway.

Anderson was taken to an area hospital with a non-life-threatening condition, while the teen was taken in serious condition. The passenger of the car was flown from the scene with serious injuries.

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The crash remains under investigation.



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Ohio State to host key 2025 recruit Darryn Peterson on official visit

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Ohio State to host key 2025 recruit Darryn Peterson on official visit


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Ohio State has an official visit lined up with the state’s biggest recruit in 20 years.

Darryn Peterson, a five-star guard in the 2025 class, will take an official visit to check out the Buckeyes on August 1. Peterson posted the news to his Instagram account with a graphic also listing an official visit to Kansas on June 23.

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A 6-5, 195-pound shooting guard, Peterson played his first two seasons of prep ball at Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio) Christian Academy before transferring to Huntington (West Virginia) Prep for the 2023-24 year.

The Buckeyes have long been recruiting Peterson, listed as the No. 3 prospect in the 2025 class according to 247Sports.com. Ohio State offered him a scholarship prior to his freshman year and has hosted him on multiple unofficial visits.

Ohio State Buckeyes: Join the Ohio State Sports Insider text group with Bill Rabinowitz, Joey Kaufman Adam Jardy

On January 1, Peterson included the Buckeyes on a list of his final eight schools that also featured Arkansas, Baylor, Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan and North Carolina. In April, Peterson announced that he was reopening his recruitment. He has since been re-offered by Ohio State coach Jake Diebler, who had been recruiting him under coach Chris Holtmann.

Peterson took an official visit to Kentucky in March. He is regarded by many national recruiting analysts as the most talented Ohioan to come out of high school since LeBron James.

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ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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