We Are Ohio, the umbrella group for labor union coalition political activism in Ohio, has a new ad in their campaign to repeal Senate Bill 5:
The ad is running statewide, on broadcast and cable, through Sept. 10. Further, according to David Williams, deputy campaign manager for voter communications, in the future We Are Ohio will be expanding their paid media buys into all medias, including internet, radio and print.
One aspect of this ad that is impossible to miss is how it focuses entirely on firefighters, specifically the way in which repealing collective bargaining rights for firefighters can damage public safety. Some ads mentioned firefighters in the Wisconsin campaign this summer, but teachers and health care workers tended to be the focus. This is because while police and firefighters were exempted from union-busting legislation in Wisconsin, Ohio Governor John Kasich went after all public sector workers. Potentially, this has opened up SB 5 to attacks with even broader appeal than what we witnessed in Wisconsin.
When asked if We Are Ohio had any internal polling to either confirm or contradict the recent survey from Public Policy Polling showing a much tighter advantage for advocates of SB 5 repeal, Williams said that We Are Ohio will not begin polling until after the ad has been running for a while.
"We're confident that we have the kind of public support that is going to enable us to win," Williams stated. However, he added, "We always thought it was going to be a lot closer than earlier polling" had suggested.
One good reason to expect a close campaign is the way federal election law actually provides what Williams called "a perverse incentive" to 501(c)4 groups, such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, to spend galactic quantities of money on ballot initiatives. In order for a 501(c)4 organization to maintain tax-exempt status, electoral activity cannot exceed 50 percent of its expenditures. Since ballot initiatives are classified as voter education and not as electoral activity, every dollar such groups spend on campaigns such as the fight over SB 5 becomes another dollar those groups are allowed to spend on the 2012 elections.
Bottom line: Don't expect the campaign to repeal SB 5 to be the blowout that polling from the spring had suggested. Those in favor of repeal still have a significant advantage, but their victory is no longer a given.