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October 1, 2010

Ohio Elections Commission Finds that Cockfighting Group Violated Campaign Finance Laws

HSUS filed complaint against Ohio Gamefowl Breeders Association

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Humane Society of the United States commends the Ohio Elections Commission for ruling the Ohio Gamefowl Breeders Association PAC violated campaign finance laws by funneling political campaign contributions through private individuals. The OGBA PAC is the sister organization of the Ohio Gamefowl Breeders Association. These organizations are working against pending legislation in Columbus (H.B. 108) to increase penalties for cockfighting, since the state has one of the weakest laws in the nation. 

The Commission found that on two occasions the OGBA PAC reimbursed an OGBA spokesman, Josh Codner, who made contributions to candidates for the Ohio state legislature. The practice of reimbursing individuals for making political contributions conceals the actual source of the contribution—the OGBA. Ohio is the only state known to have a political action committee that works in the interest of cockfighters.

Although the Ohio Elections Commission ruled that OGBA violated state campaign finance laws, the commission followed its standard practice of not imposing fines for first-time offenses. The complaint that The HSUS filed on Aug. 16 is available here.

“Most people would be shocked to know that individuals with ties to illegal animal fighting would be so politically active,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “This is an organized criminal enterprise, and it is time for Ohio lawmakers not only to reject financial support from a front organization for cockfighters, but also to pass strong anti-cockfighting legislation and align Ohio law with the vast majority of states.”

H.B. 108, introduced by Reps. John Domenick, D-95, and Lou Blessing, R-29, would make cockfighting a class 5 felony in Ohio. Cockfighting is a class 4 misdemeanor, with fines that are the equivalent of a traffic ticket. The House passed H.B. 108 by a vote of 79 to 19 last December, and the bill is pending in the Senate Agriculture committee. Governor Strickland has expressed support for the legislation and asked the legislation to act on it this year. Support for this legislation was one element of a landmark agreement between HSUS, Governor Strickland, and either leading agricultural organizations, including the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

Facts:

  • Cockfighting itself is a crime in all 50 states.
  • Common cockfighting practices include breeding birds for viciousness, drugging them to heighten aggression and fitting their legs with razor-sharp knives or gaffs, which resemble curved ice picks.
  • On June 30, an agreement was reached among Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio agricultural leaders, The HSUS, Ohioans for Humane Farms and other groups to adopt reforms on a range of issues including farm animal welfare, puppy mills, cockfighting and private ownership of exotic animals such as bears, lions, tigers, primates, large constricting and venomous snakes, crocodiles and alligators.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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