Big Money, Big Influence: The Fight Over Ohio’s Abortion Rights

Ohio’s been making headlines recently, and it’s not just about the upcoming ballot this November. Dive deeper, and you’ll uncover a massive, dark money storm brewing, with one key player pulling the strings behind the curtain: Leonard Leo.

Leonard Leo, known by some as the conservative judicial kingpin, isn’t new to the money game. In fact, his Concord Fund is notorious in Republican dark money circles. And here’s the kicker: they’ve channeled a whopping $18 million into opposing Ohio’s Issue 1, a measure aiming to make abortion a constitutional right in the Buckeye state. Why? This comes on the heels of the state’s lawmakers pushing for an almost total ban on abortions—a ban currently in limbo, waiting for the November ballot’s results.

But where’s this money going? Dive in, and it gets murkier. $18 million from Leo’s fund went to a group named Protect Women Ohio Action, which swiftly transferred $17 million to the primary group fighting the measure. The mission? A barrage of ads designed to confuse voters about what Issue 1 stands for. Doing the math, Leo’s fund contributed to nearly 60% of the total funds these two groups amassed against the ballot measure. Interestingly, a good chunk of this change has found its way back into Leo’s own pockets, with over $2.3 million rerouted to his consulting group, CRC Advisors.

But what’s at stake with Issue 1? It’s not just a battle about rights in Ohio. It sets a precedent for women’s rights and abortion access across the nation. If passed, Issue 1 would seal the constitutional right to abortion in Ohio, safeguarding contraception access too. Yet, the state could still veto abortions post-fetal viability, given exceptions for certain health risks.

Political aficionados are seeing this as a trial run for the 2024 elections. And here’s some food for thought: Issue 1 supporters celebrated a solid victory back in August, defeating a GOP effort with a decisive 57% to 43% win.

Caroline Ciccone, president of Accountable.US, voiced her concerns, emphasizing that Leo has a long history of attempting to terminate abortion access, affecting millions. “Leo tapping into his billion-dollar network to interfere in this election poses severe, life-changing risks for Ohioans and, more broadly, Americans,” she mentioned.

The plot thickens further. Many members of Protect Women Ohio are linked to the Alliance Defending Freedom. This group, with its extreme right-wing Christian leanings, played a key role in authoring the Mississippi abortion ban, eventually causing the monumental overturn of Roe v. Wade.

The endgame? Leo’s longstanding ambition to shape the courts. Rumor has it he was instrumental in nominating Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court back in 2005, primarily for his alignment with the anti-abortion cause.

For Ohioans, and frankly, for all Americans, the stakes are higher than ever. The dark money, the influence, the political maneuvering—it’s more than just a state issue. It’s a battle for rights, for the future, and for the soul of the nation. As we head towards the ballot box, it’s essential to be informed, to know who’s pulling the strings, and to make choices that truly reflect our values and desires for the future.