Monday, December 15, 2014

Can That Easement Stand?


Q:       Can a company use an existing pipeline easement on my property to construct a new pipeline?
A:        Ohio is crisscrossed with hundreds of miles of oil, gas, water and even coal pipeline easements that were granted in a different era. Some date back to the 1800s. Their validity depends on whether the easement:  was properly recorded; has been abandoned; contains an enforceable provision that provides for additional lines to be installed; and many other factors. To find out if your old pipeline easement can be used to install a new pipeline, you should ask a qualified attorney to review your easement document.

Q:       The old pipeline easement on my property says that the company only has to pay pennies per rod to install a new pipeline. Can that be enforced?
A:        In short, no. In such cases, even if the pipeline easement is otherwise valid, the compensation provision will not be valid. The Supreme Court of Ohio has held that decades-old compensation provisions are unenforceable due to factors such as inflation, increased land value and other changed circumstances that now render the old provision unfair and inequitable to the landowner. The company must pay the fair market value in today’s world for the property it wishes to use.

Q:       If I have an old easement, can the pipeline company put the pipeline anywhere on my property that it wants?
A:        Old easements often describe easement boundaries as being the entire property and the property as being only the land that is bounded by some identified neighbors to the north, south, east and west. Even if such an old description is used, the easement does not extend to the whole property and is limited to what was actually used in installing and operating the pipeline. To establish how much of the property was actually used for pipeline installation and operation, you may be able to reference old photographs of the pipeline installation. Or, if a pipeline goes through woods rather than farmland, you can determine the width that was actually used by calculating the width of the woods that were cleared. If the pipeline company wants to use an area larger than what was established by the original pipeline’s installation and use, it must take that area by eminent domain and pay you just compensation.

Q:       Can a company use an existing pipeline easement on my property to construct a larger pipeline?
A:        An easement must be used in a way that does not place unreasonable new burdens (called a “surcharge”) on the property that it runs through. If an Ohio court finds that constructing a larger pipeline places unreasonable new burdens on your property, then that use will not be permitted.

Q:       What compensation will I receive if the pipeline takes my property through eminent domain?
A:        You are entitled to: 1) the value of the property taken and 2) the damage to the remainder of the property. The value of the property taken is determined by the fair market value of similar property in today’s marketplace. The damage to the remaining property includes the negative effect of the pipeline installation on the value of your entire property, and not just the area where the pipeline is installed. Land containing a large pipeline carrying flammable materials like natural gas petroleum is considered to be less valuable than comparable land that does not have a pipeline. You are entitled to be compensated for that decrease in value, which is often greater than the value of the property that is actually used for the pipeline. Other common elements of damage include crop damage, damage to drain tile and contamination of topsoil. You may also be entitled to compensation for other damages, but these can only be determined by careful inspection of the land involved.

Q:       Does a pipeline company have the right to enter my property before eminent domain proceedings?
A:        Yes. Ohio law permits private pipeline companies that transport natural gas and petroleum to enter your land to survey before any formal proceedings begin. However, the company must give you at least 48 hours’ notice. You are also entitled to receive compensation for any damages to your land, crops, structures and personal property resulting from the company’s entry onto your land. You should consult with an attorney before signing documentation providing access and/or permission to a pipeline company.

This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). Michael Braunstein, a principal in the Columbus, Ohio law firm, Goldman & Braunstein LLP, which represents landowners in eminent domain cases, prepared this article. The column offers general information about the law.  Seek an attorney’s advice before applying this information to a legal problem.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Divorce: What’s in a Name?


Q:       My soon-to-be ex-wife and I jointly owned our house. Can I put the title into my name alone when we get divorced?
A:        A deed identifies the title, or ownership interest, in your house. When people divorce or dissolve their marriage, usually the property is allocated to one party, or it is sold and the proceeds are divided. If you are the person who “receives” the property, then the title will be conveyed from joint ownership (you and your wife), to single ownership (you or your wife) through a quitclaim deed. You would file this transfer of property at the county recorder’s office (sometimes called a “fiscal office”). There are no tax implications related to this property transfer.

Q:       I didn’t change my name at the time of the divorce but now I would like to. How can I do that?
A:        In Ohio, the probate court usually has primary jurisdiction over the changing of individual’s last names. However, in the case of divorce or dissolution, a person is allowed to go back to using a former name (and only a former name) during the divorce or dissolution process. If, as in your case, you didn’t change your name at the time of the final hearing, then you must file a petition for a name change with the appropriate probate court. If you file a petition for a name change after the divorce/dissolution process, then you are not limited to returning to a former name; you can use any name you choose.

Q:       How do I get off the mortgage to my house?
A:        Mortgage liability is completely separate and apart from the ownership interest in real estate. Conveying a property’s title can easily be completed through a quitclaim deed. Releasing a former spouse from a mortgage liability can only be done if that mortgage is satisfied. This means that the property must be sold and the balance of the mortgage paid from the proceeds, or one of the former spouses must refinance the mortgage. Refinancing a mortgage is another way of saying, “Pay-off that mortgage with this one!” Refinancing (just like acquiring any loan) usually requires a down-payment, collateral and monthly payments.

Q:       My wife’s name is on the title to my car. How do I put the car back into my name alone once we’re divorced?
A:        It is very simple to transfer a title to an automobile, boat, airplane, RV or ATV. If your wife agrees to transfer the title of the car into your name alone, she will simply “execute” (write and sign) a statement on the back of the original title saying that she is transferring her ownership interest in the car to you. Since you are the one receiving her ownership interest in the car, then it will be your responsibility to register the title with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Q:       I’d like to protect my name and my privacy. Is there a way I can “seal” my records so that other people can’t see my divorce settlement?
A:        Generally, civil courts in Ohio are open and public forums, so most proceedings and filings in a courthouse are available to the public. In rare circumstances, a person may ask that a portion or all of a case’s records be placed under “seal” and not be included as part of the public record. To make such a request, you must petition the domestic relations court, and state specifically why your case or file requires confidentiality. The court considers these requests on a case-by-case basis.

This “Law You Can Use” article was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Cleveland attorney Manav (Manu) H. Raj, Esq. of Rieth Antonelli & Raj. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Trustees and Creditors Have Different Roles in Consumer Bankruptcy Cases


Q:       What is the role of a trustee in a consumer bankruptcy case?
A:        In a Chapter 7 consumer bankruptcy case, assets are liquidated to pay creditors. In such a case, a trustee is appointed to investigate the debtor’s financial affairs and determine if any unencumbered, non-exempt assets can be liquidated and paid to creditors. The trustee may sell non-exempt assets and bring lawsuits against the debtor or creditors. The trustee also reviews the debtor’s filed bankruptcy papers to make sure they are accurate and complete. The trustee convenes and presides over the meeting of creditors, and reviews any claims filed by creditors. If appropriate, the trustee will file an objection to any claim that appears to be invalid.
            In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, the debtor proposes a repayment plan based on the debtor’s monthly budget. This repayment plan can last up to five years. The trustee presides over the meeting of creditors in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, just as in a Chapter 7 case. The trustee also examines the debtor’s bankruptcy papers, paying specific attention to the debtor’s proposed budget and Chapter 13 plan to make sure all of the debtor’s disposable income is being paid into the plan and that the plan meets all Bankruptcy Code requirements. The trustee can refuse to confirm a proposed repayment plan and object to proofs of claim, if appropriate.

Q:       What limitations and rights do creditors have in a consumer bankruptcy case?
A:        Whenever a bankruptcy case is filed, there is an automatic “stay.” This means that creditors cannot take or continue any collection actions against a debtor. For example, a creditor cannot make or send collection calls and letters, file a lawsuit or continue to pursue a pending lawsuit, or take any action, such as garnishing wages, to collect a judgment. Most creditors can never collect a debt that has been discharged in bankruptcy. However, in most cases, secured creditors can keep their lien/mortgage rights after a bankruptcy, and the debtor keeps some debts, such as certain taxes and spousal or child support obligations.
            Creditors have these rights in a bankruptcy case:         
·       to attend the creditors’ meeting and question the debtor;
·       to file proofs of claim in the bankruptcy case and participate in any bankruptcy payments;
·       if there are grounds, to file a lawsuit in the bankruptcy court claiming that the debtor should not receive a discharge or that the creditor’s debt should not be discharged.
Also, secured creditors may seek relief from the automatic stay in order to preserve and to liquidate their collateral.

Q:       What do the trustee and creditors do at the meeting of creditors?
A:        The Bankruptcy Code requires a meeting of creditors in every bankruptcy case. In both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, the trustee conducts the creditors’ meeting. At the meeting, the trustee examines the debtor, whose lawyer is generally present. The debtor testifies under oath about the bankruptcy, and the testimony is recorded. The trustee asks the debtor about assets, liabilities and other financial matters, and tries to determine if there are any assets that the debtor has not disclosed. 
            Creditors may, but are not required to, attend this meeting. Once the trustee has finished questioning the debtor, any creditors present at the meeting will be allowed to examine the debtor. Secured creditors often ask about the status of their collateral—its location, condition and whether it is insured. A creditor may also ask questions about the possible discharge of its debt. In most consumer bankruptcy cases, however, creditors do not attend the meeting of creditors.

Q:       What does a trustee expect from the debtor?
A:        In Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases, trustees expect debtors to fully disclose their assets, liabilities and income. They expect debtors to appear, on time, with legal counsel and all required documents, at the meeting of creditors. Trustees also expect debtors to fully cooperate as the case proceeds. If a debtor in a Chapter 7 case fails to cooperate or to provide additional information and documents, the trustee can ask the court to require the debtor to appear for an examination under oath and can object if the court issues a bankruptcy discharge. A Chapter 13 trustee can refuse to confirm the debtor’s bankruptcy plan or ask the court to dismiss the bankruptcy case due to the debtor’s lack of cooperation.

This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Columbus attorney Kenneth M. Richards. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

When Adoptions Fail: What You Should Know about “Rehoming”


Q:       What is “rehoming?”
A:        Rehoming is the term currently being used to describe a privately arranged second placement for an adopted child when the first adoptive placement fails. Such a failure is called a “disruption.” Usually, it is the initial adoptive family that arranges the “rehoming” of a child to another adoptive family.

Q:       Why would a child be moved from an initial adoptive home? 
A:        Sometimes, children and their adoptive families do not bond effectively. In particular, difficulties may arise when children are adopted from other countries, or when children are older (school age) when placed. Or, an adoptive family may have received inaccurate information about important facts about the adopted child, such as age or health status. Also, many children have been victims of physical or sexual abuse, which prevents them from bonding in their initial placement. Adoption disruption rates may range from 9 to 25 percent. 

Q:       I read a newspaper article that criticized rehoming. What, exactly, are the concerns?
A:        Concerns stem from the fact that these replacement efforts frequently bypass social work safeguards such as home studies, child abuse clearances, criminal record checks and Interstate Compact clearances that are designed to protect the child. Failure to follow the safeguards may expose the child to possible abuse or neglect. In addition, bypassing these safeguards when proceeding with a private rehoming for an adopted child may well be a violation of the law. Therefore, a family trying to place its adopted child with another family must find competent legal representation and comply with child welfare laws. Such families face possible financial and criminal liability if the process is not well managed.
            It is also unclear whether all of these secondary placement families are fully aware of the child’s needs or have the resources appropriate for the child’s care and nurturance. Sometimes, after the child has been moved to another home, no one takes responsibility for providing oversight and for ensuring that the child is doing well in the new home. A second adoption that is done properly would provide such oversight. However, when “rehoming” is handled privately, there may be no home study, so no assessor or social worker would be assigned to oversee the adoption, as would happen in an agency adoption. So, it may be difficult to find the right entity qualified to oversee the adoption and make sure the child is making a successful transition. If the replacement effort is private, these costs may be covered by the placing or receiving parents.

Q:       My husband and I adopted a six-year-old boy last year, but we didn’t realize how difficult it would be. Is there anything we can do short of placing him with another family?
A:        If you adopted the child from a domestic agency, that agency may offer post-adoption services, including counseling, respite care and mental health services. The local children’s services agency also may offer services to avoid disruption, particularly if the child’s actions are a danger to himself or others. You also may opt to privately place the child in a treatment or educational facility while maintaining ties with him. Adoption subsidies are sometimes available to assist with the cost of placement. National adoption advocacy groups recommend that more and better post-adoptive services be put in place to support families such as yours. Ohio law makes special provisions as to child support for adoption children placed in out of the home care with county agencies. Support may be waived if the court decides this is appropriate.
            If these options fail, and you decide the child should be placed in another home, then you must be careful to do so in a responsible and ethical manner with the standard social work safeguards.

Q:       What are some of the reasons for adoption failures?
A:        Sometimes the child’s needs are too overwhelming for the adoptive family to handle, or the family’s expectations are unreasonable. Sometimes the family lacks appropriate training and resources to support the adoption or the family does not receive appropriate social work support. 
            Also, in the last 20 years, there has been a concerted effort to place special needs children in adoptive homes. While such adoptions can work very well, they present additional challenges that many adoptive families cannot manage successfully.
            While enforcement of current laws can curtail some unethical rehoming, such enforcement may also adversely affect situations where rehoming is a good option for a child, such as when a child is moved to a grandparent’s home.

This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information article was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Columbus attorney Susan Garner Eisenman, chair of Ohio’s Adoption Law Roundtable and fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys and the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

The CSI Mystique: Forensic Science in the Courtroom


            Long before CSI debuted, juries have reached confusing decisions. Forensic science is an important part of many trials and, if used effectively, can help guide the jury. 

Q:       Is there really a “CSI effect” in courtrooms? 
A:        Yes. CSI remains among the top television shows in America. Many of those millions of weekly viewers will be seated on juries and asked to decide cases with forensic evidence.
            CSI is not the first exposure most TV viewers have to forensic science. The roots of CSI date back to Quincy M.E., which first aired in 1976 and  as early as the 1960’s, popular TV shows such as Mannix, Cannon and Ironside focused on private investigation that involved the use of forensic analysis to solve cases. 
After more than a half-century of these types of television shows, most jurors come into a courtroom with a pre-conceived notion of what forensic evidence should be and how it is used in investigations and litigation.
 
Q:       What is forensic evidence?
A:        Most dictionaries define forensics as “analysis suitable for use in courts or public discussion and relating or dealing with the application of scientific knowledge to legal issues.” Courtroom application, however, is complex.
            Jurors today are intrigued by forensic testing and analysis and are extremely receptive to this type of evidence. Attorneys and witnesses must embrace fully jurors’ interest in forensics and use it to maximum advantage. If they fail to do so, they are unlikely to meet expectations arising from their exposure to forensics through movies, television or popular novels. 
  Jurors are ready and willing to hear and consider forensic evidence, especially when the advocate or witness presenting the evidence intrigues the jury and demonstrates the extent of analysis and preparation that went into building the case in a way that is not dry and boring.

Q:       How does “real” forensics differ from CSI?
A:        Most actual laboratory analysis is done in a basement with old tile floors and fluorescent lighting, and not in the space age, blue-lit phenomenal laboratories depicted on TV. Lab results and testing are far more complicated and take much longer than a one-hour TV episode allows. Hollywood’s depiction is also much different from the forensic evidence and analysis that presented in an actual jury trial.  Attorneys and witnesses must do a good job of explaining and even demonstrating why the jurors can rely on a particular scientific analysis to reach a sound decision about evidence in a case. Many jurors find such explanations and demonstrations to be the most interesting and compelling part of a trial.

Q:       So what, exactly, IS the CSI effect?
A:        The CSI effect describes the way television drama bolsters the impression that forensic evidence is both more glamorous and more conclusive than it actually is. In April 2005, a cover story in U.S. News and World Report, revealing conclusions from a study of the “CSI effect,” reported that many Americans are disappointed when encountering the real world of law and order. In particular, jurors expect that forensic evidence will be used in every case and that it will be conclusive, and these expectations may influence their understanding when performing jury service.
            Due to the impact of the CSI effect, jurors may reach an erroneous decision, not because of a lack of sound evidence, but because the presentation of that evidence does not meet or exceed their expectations from TV. Jurors are ready to be “wowed” in the courtroom by the “who, what, when, where and why” of forensic analysis and evidence.

Q:       How can attorneys and jurors mitigate the CSI effect?
A:        Attorneys must take the CSI effect into account when addressing juries. Simply presenting forensic evidence to the jury may not be sufficient. To advocate effectively for a client, an attorney must clearly understand jurors’ expectations, whether right or wrong, and present forensic evidence in a way that will help jurors better understand the case.
   Jurors must try to adjust their expectations of “real life courtroom drama” and understand that the actual use of forensic evidence is rarely as conclusive or as exciting as an hour-long television show suggests.

This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Matthew J. Smith, Esq. of the law firm Smith, Rolfes & Skavdahl Company, L.P.A. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek the advice of a licensed attorney.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Termination of an Ohio Teacher’s Tenured Employment Requires “Good and Just Cause”


According to Ohio law (Ohio Revised Code Section 3319.16), a tenured teacher has the right to a hearing before a school board determines whether there is “good and just cause” to terminate that teacher’s employment contract.

Q:       What conduct constitutes “good and just cause” for a tenured teacher’s employment contract to be terminated?
A:        The Supreme Court of Ohio addressed that question in a case that involved the Mount Vernon City School Board’s termination of a tenured teacher’s employment contract. In Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education, the teacher who brought the lawsuit argued that the school board did not have “good and just cause” to terminate his employment contract as is required by Ohio law.
            In its decision, the Supreme Court found that “good and just cause” includes “insubordination” by a teacher. The Court further defined “insubordination” as the willful disobedience of, or refusal to obey, a reasonable and valid rule or regulation of the school board.

Q:       Must a school board inform a tenured teacher that the school board intends to consider terminating the teacher’s employment contract?
A:        Ohio law requires a school board to provide written notice to the teacher. The notice must state that the board intends to consider terminating the teacher’s employment contract, and provide the specific reason(s) for termination. For example, if insubordination is the reason for termination, then the school board’s written notice must state the specific instances when the teacher willfully disobeyed or refused to obey a school board rule.

Q:       Can the teacher contest the charges in the written notice?
A:        The teacher has ten days after receiving the written notice to demand a hearing. The teacher also has the right to demand that the hearing be conducted by an impartial hearing referee. The person serving as the hearing referee may not be a member of the school board, an employee of the school or the spouse of a person employed by the school. The Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction gives the teacher and the school board a list of three individuals qualified to serve as a hearing referee. If the teacher and the school board cannot agree on one of those three individuals, then the Superintendent appoints one of them to serve as referee.

Q:       What are the teacher’s rights at this hearing?
A:        Both the teacher and the school board have the right to be present during the hearing and to have attorney representation at the hearing. Evidence presented at the hearing is confined to the reasons for termination stated in the school board’s written notice to the teacher. The teacher and the school board may each introduce and examine their own witnesses and may cross-examine the other party’s witnesses. Both the board and the teacher may also submit documents into evidence. A complete stenographic record of this hearing is required. It is typically prepared by a court reporter.

Q:       What does the hearing referee do?
A:        After hearing all the evidence, including witness testimony, the hearing referee must prepare and submit a “report and recommendation” to the school board. The report includes the referee’s findings of fact, conclusions of law and the referee’s recommendation to the school board. The referee determines whether facts show that the teacher engaged in the acts as the school board’s letter charged and whether those facts constituted good and just cause for termination. Then, the referee recommends either termination or continuation of the teacher’s contract. The referee must send this report and recommendation to the school board within ten days after the hearing.

Q:       Must the school board accept the referee’s report and recommendation?    
A:        If the referee’s findings are supported by the evidence in the hearing record, the school board must accept the referee’s findings of fact. Courts have held that a school board has the discretion to decide whether to accept or reject a referee’s recommendation, but the board’s decision cannot be contrary to law. For example, if a referee recommends that the employment contract should not be terminated because the findings of fact clearly did not constitute good and just cause, and if the record of the hearing supports the referee’s findings of fact, then a school board’s decision to ignore the referee’s recommendation and terminate the tenured teacher’s employment contract would be contrary to Ohio law. 

This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Stow attorney Ronald E. Alexander. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

What Does Ohio Law Say about Campaign Contributions?


Q:       Does Ohio law regulate my campaign contributions?
A:        Yes. Ohio law regulates the amount of money you can give in certain races, primarily in state legislative and statewide campaigns. The law also requires the candidate to report contributions. The goal is transparency, which applies to both the candidate and the contributor.

Q:       What must be disclosed?
A:        Candidates and their campaign committees must disclose the campaign contributions they receive. This usually includes the amount of money received as well as the contributor’s name and address.  The value of an “in kind” donation of something other than money must also be disclosed.

Q:       Can’t I remain anonymous?
A:        No. Neither a candidate, nor the committee supporting the candidate, is allowed to accept anonymous donations. If, for example, a candidate’s committee receives an anonymous donation and does not know the contributor’s identity, the committee must make a reasonable attempt to determine who the donor is. The committee or candidate must disclose the donor’s identity if it is discovered, and must document the steps taken to identify the unknown contributor.

Q:       It’s my money. Can’t I give as much as I want?
A:        No.  Ohio limits contribution amounts to campaigns for statewide offices or legislative seats. Ohio’s Revised Code sets the amounts, but allows the Ohio Secretary of State to adjust those for inflation in odd-numbered years. The Secretary of State currently caps individual donations in these amounts:
·       $12,155.52 to a candidate’s campaign in the same election cycle, including primary and general elections;
·       $18,233.28 to a legislative candidate’s election fund in the same calendar year;
·       $12,155.52 to the county party’s fund for the election of  political candidates (“county party statewide fund”) in the county where you live;
·       $0 to any county party’s statewide candidate fund in counties where you do not live;
·       $36,466.56 per calendar year to a state party’s fund for the election of political candidates (“state party’s statewide candidate fund”) in a county where you live.*
·       $12,155.52 to the same the political action committee in a calendar year.
·       $3,600 to a candidate for Supreme Court of Ohio justice or chief justice per election period, if the candidate has a contested primary election. If the candidate does not face a primary election opponent, the maximum is $3,600.
Visit the Ohio Secretary of State’s guide to current contribution limits at
*State and county political parties operate independently; each may maintain funds specifically designated for electing candidates to statewide office.

Q:       Can my child give?
A:        Ohio law prohibits children under age seven from contributing, but children age seven or older may contribute within the limits described above. Also, unlike some other states, there is no statute limiting the total amount a family can donate.

Q:       Can my company donate?
A:        It depends on the type of company. Partnerships, limited liability companies and other unincorporated business entities are allowed to donate to candidates, but Ohio law restricts corporations from donating directly to a candidate’s campaign committee or a political party.  
            However, restrictions that previously applied in Ohio were affected by a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling called Citizens United. Now, corporations (for profit and non-profit) and labor unions are allowed to donate more freely to election campaigns. These organizations, as well as any individual or group of individuals, are allowed to sponsor advertising—without financial limits—that endorses candidates, as long as the entity does not directly contribute to, or coordinate with, the candidate or the candidate’s campaign committee.

Q:
      Can I contribute freely to the local race for dog warden?
A:        Ohio law puts no restrictions on local or county races, but local governments are allowed to create their own regulations about campaign contributions, and some have done so.

Q:       Are candidates restricted in how they use their campaign funds?
A:        Yes. Candidates must use their funds for ordinary, necessary and verifiable expenses. This means that candidates may not use their campaign funds for business or for clearly personal needs. However, these rules are broad and allow for spending that might not seem like campaigning. Candidates have been allowed to use their campaign funds for certain meals, trips and even to pay fines related to campaign law violations.

Q:       What about contributions to candidates for federal office?
A:        Federal law applies to campaign spending for candidates running for Congress and President. Contribution limits are set in the following amounts:
·       $2,600 to a federal candidate or the candidate’s campaign committee in each election period (primaries and general elections are considered different election periods);
·       $2,600 per presidential election period;
·       $5,000 to a political action committee (PAC) in the same calendar year;
·       $32,400 each calendar year to a national party committee. 

Q:       Can anyone contribute to federal candidates?
A:        No. A citizen of another country is not allowed to contribute to any U.S. candidate, unless that person is a permanent resident of the United States. Additionally, anyone considered a government contractor—even consultants—may not contribute to federal candidates. For more information about federal campaign laws, visit www.fec.gov.

This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Columbus attorney Paul Aker. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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