Why what the PeeDee is doing is wrong and illegal. There are 2 aspects to this. First is disclosure. The PeeDee does not have any disclosure as to whom is writing their Blackwell blog. A non discerning reader might fairly assume it is the PeeDee staff itself and that this is their news or opinion. Such a Pro- Blackwell message mistaken as real reporting or “non biased” opinion is dangerous – which is why it is illegal for candidates to not have a disclaimer.
I think that part is the simple and easy part to understand, something everyone can agree upon, and is supported by the OEC opinion.
The next aspect is corporate contributions to a candidate. These are illegal plain and simple. Contributions must come from PACs or individuals, there is no other way around it.
Now corporations can obviously provide services, but they must provide the same service at the same cost to all. The PeeDee does not indicate if others are allowed to setup a blog at Cleveland.com, nor under what conditions.
Who controls when a candidate can post ? The PeeDee ? If they control that, then they can give a significant advantage to one candidate over another. Obviously blogging a week before the election is more valuable than 3 months before. So different timing inherently has different value – a violation of the law.
What happens if next week Jim Petro gets a chance and spends the week attacking Ken Blackwell – how does Ken respond to those attacks ?
Furthermore, Ohio election law covers all state candidates, not just statewide candidates. So this includes everything down to dog catcher (it does exclude Senate and congress – that is Federal law). That would amount to hundreds, possibly thousands of candidates. Does the PeeDee intend to allow every candidate who wishes to write a blog at Cleveland.com to do so ? How do they intend to coordinate that, so it is fair ? If they do not offer this opportunity to my dog catcher they are breaking the law – OEC has already issued a prior opinion on this matter. The law does not discriminate between different offices, it applies equally to all. Allowing Blackwell, Petro, Strickland, Flannery and Fingerhut a chance is not enough.
So to recap. The PeeDee is breaking the law because it has no disclaimer. It is making a contribution right now to just one candidate, which is illegal because it is a corporation not a PAC, and if it beleives it is providing a service then it must, by law provide that serivce at the same cost and opportunity to every candidate in Ohio whose election is covered by Ohio election law.
The Blackwell campaign is breaking the law by not providing a disclaimer, and will also be in violation if he does not file this as a campaign contribution – which would be an illegal one and subject him to a fine – or worse.
It’s not complicated and frankly the PeeDee should have known better, and Ken Blackwell as the SoS REALLY should have known better – and this is the guy who thinks he can run a state, he can’t even figure out simple election law, which is his current job.