GOP megadonor pours millions into effort to hinder Ohio abortion amendment


New campaign finance records show Illinois Republican megadonor Richard Uihlein is funding the bulk of the campaign aimed at thwarting a constitutional amendment on abortion in Ohio

Ohio is likely the only state this year to have a measure on the ballot to enshrine abortion access into the state constitution, setting up a test case for how the issue may drive voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election. A USA TODAY Network/Suffolk University poll released this week found 58% of Ohioans support a constitutional amendment.

That support may not be enough to pass. Currently, such amendments require support from a simple majority — 50% + 1 vote. But the GOP-led state legislature set up a special election for Aug. 8 to raise the threshold to 60%. That measure is known as Ohio Issue One.

Uihlein, an Illinois shipping supplies magnate with a history of donations to anti-abortion groups, was the top funder of Protect our Constitution, the main group supporting Issue One. Uihlein gave $4 million to the group, the bulk of the $4.85 million raised. 

File: Uline CEO and conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein

Screen shot from ULine company video

Last month, a CBS News investigation found Uihlein had an outsized role in getting Issue One on the ballot. In April, he gave $1.1 million to a political committee pressuring Republican lawmakers to approve the August special election. Financial disclosures show a foundation controlled by Uihlein has given nearly $18 million to a Florida-based organization pushing similar changes to the constitutional amendment process in states across the country. 

Uihlein didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ohio Republicans pushing to change the rules over constitutional amendments originally billed the effort as one that would prevent outside interests from influencing the state constitution. But supporters, including Secretary of State Frank LaRose, have since acknowledged the change would make it harder for a constitutional amendment on abortion to pass. 

Last year, voters in Kansas and Michigan chose to preserve abortion access in their state constitutions with just under 60% approval.

Once the August special election was approved, money began to flow in on both sides. The central group opposed to raising the threshold for passing an amendment to 60%, One Person One Vote, raised a total of $14.4 million. The Sixteen Thirty Fund gave $2.5 million to the effort, campaign finance records show. The group, based in Washington D.C., has spent millions on left-leaning causes, including the campaign against the confirmation of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

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