Ohio Revised Code §3599.45, originally passed in 1978, bars doctors and health service providers from contributing to candidates for state attorney general or county prosecutor officials who prosecute Medicaid fraud.
Last Friday, nine Cleveland, Ohio doctors filed suit in U.S. District Court saying the provision is too restrictive and violates their First Amendment rights. "The doctors support President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and challenged the state law after they were told they could not contribute to Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray's re-election campaign," plaintiffs' lawyer was quoted in a recent USAToday article. "The doctors wanted to back Cordray, a Democrat, after he refused to join other states in a lawsuit to block the health care law."
"Simply put, Ohio law assumes plaintiffs are fraudsters whose voices must be silenced," the lawsuit says. "Such a stigma is unwarranted and violates plaintiffs' right to free speech."
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, however, feels that lifting the ban on the contributions would not be in the public's best interest. "The attorney general's office directly prosecutes Medicaid fraud cases and lifting the ban would allow contributions that could have the effect or the appearance of unduly influencing decisions of those entrusted with protecting the public welfare", she told the Associated Press.
Brunner also said that while the attorney general normally defends the secretary of state in lawsuits, a special counsel would be appointed here to avoid any conflict of interest.