Small Donor Action Committee

One of the complaints about ballot language is that it is often aimed at lawyers and so written above the comfortable reading level of average citizens. While all of the five issues on the ballot in November have phrases and sections that might be difficult to understand, none is causing more trouble than Issue 3's small donor action committee. But the component parts of that four word phrase are relatively easy to understand; taken together the words should make perfect sense.

The "action committee" part of the phrase simply refers to "political action committee," or PAC, the now-common fixture on the American political landscape. In Ohio , a political action committee is simply a body that is not affiliated directly with a campaign or political party but receives donations and spends money to influence elections for public office. For instance, the Ohio State Medical Association has a PAC that supports "the election and retention of pro-medicine candidates." The Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers has a PAC that acts similarly in the interest of its attorneys.

The "small donor" part refers to how much an individual donor can give. In the case of Issue 3, an individual could give up to $50 to the action committee. A small donor action committee, then, would be a PAC that could only receive donations in $50 increments.

One of the objections that Issue 3's opponents have to the small donor action committee as implemented in Issue 3 is that it allows a "nonprofit membership association" to have its membership dues be used for this purpose. This is viewed to be an exception made to allow the membership of unions to contribute to these action committees while disallowing similar contributions by corporations.

Another feature of the Issue 3 is that it would permit these small donor action committees to give $10,000 to a political candidate. Therefore, by pooling a large number of small-donor contributions, one of these groups could have a significant impact on a General Assembly campaign. By contrast, under Issue 3, an ordinary PAC would be confined to giving $500 to a candidate. If Issue 3 is adopted, it is likely that these small donor groups would become important players in the election process, while ordinary PACs would lose their significance.