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Rep. Joyce Beatty pulls out of Ohio Chamber of Commerce fundraiser ahead of Issue 1 vote

Rep. Joyce Beatty
J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Joyce Beatty pulled out of a fundraiser with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce ahead of a 2023 August special election. She is against the ballot proposed constitutional amendment asking voters to raise the threshold to pass such a measure to 60% while the Ohio Chamber supports it.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce endorsed statewide Issue 1 while Beatty opposes the measure. Beatty's campaign claimed in a letter the PAC failed to disclose the nature of the event to the campaign.

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty was set to headline a joint fundraiser for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee until she suddenly pulled out Wednesday evening.

Beatty, a five-term Democratic congresswoman from Columbus, sent a letter to the Ohio Chamber on Wednesday evening through her campaign demanding the organization remove any promotional material about the event. The letter said Beatty would no longer attend the event.

The Ohio Chamber's PAC was set to host Beatty and fellow Columbus-area Congressman Mike Carey on Monday for the fundraiser. Promotional materials said the event is a reception for the PAC at the chamber's headquarters in downtown Columbus.

Beatty's choice to pull out of the fundraiser comes as she and the organization are at odds over an upcoming August 8 special election in Ohio.

The Ohio Chamber has endorsed a constitutional amendment asking voters to increase the threshold to pass future amendments to the Ohio Constitution from 50% plus 1 to 60%.

Related: Ohio voter guide: What to know about the August special election

 A flyer shows information on a fundraiser for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
Congressmembers Joyce Beatty and Mike Carey were set to join a Ohio Chamber of Commerce Fundraiser on July 24. Beatty pulled out of the fundraiser on Wednesday.

This would make it harder to pass such measures and is widely seen as an attempt to block an upcoming constitutional amendment in November asking voters to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.

Ohio Chamber President and CEO Steve Stivers has said in past statements that the organization is supporting Issue 1 but won't take a position on the November abortion amendment. He said the Ohio Chamber has an interest in making it tougher to pass constitutional amendments.

“The Ohio Chamber is a business association and takes positions on business issues, not social issues. While we support protecting our constitution in August, this has everything to do with subjects like minimum wage, employment at-will and other business issues," Stivers said.

The flyer said tickets started at $500 and had higher options up to $5,000 to be an "event champion."

Beatty, Carey and the Ohio Chamber could not be reached for comment.

Beatty and Carey both co-chair the U.S. House Civility Caucus, which is mentioned on the flyer. Beatty founded the caucus with Stivers, who served in Congress until 2021 prior to his current role at the Ohio Chamber.

Carey and Beatty both relaunched the caucus in April.

Beatty posted the letter to her campaign's Twitter, which is signed by her campaign's legal counsel Jeffrey Ruppert.

Ruppert said in the letter the campaign is concerned with the PAC's failure to fully and accurately represent the event when talking with her campaign staff. He said the campaign informed the chamber Wednesday evening the congresswoman would not attend.

Ruppert said the PAC also didn't let the campaign review the promotional material. He cited campaign finance and ethics laws as a reason to let her review the materials.

"By failing to disclose the fundraising nature of the event to Congresswoman Beatty and Beatty for Congress, as well as failing to provide an opportunity to review any promotional materials for the event, (the Ohio Chamber PAC) put Congresswoman Beatty and Beatty for Congress at risk of violating these laws and regulations," Ruppert said.

The letter calls on the Ohio Chamber to cease and desist promoting the event with Beatty and inform all attendees and post on social media that the event is canceled and Beatty was not aware of the event's nature.

The letter said if the Ohio Chamber didn't take action and do what was requested the campaign may submit complaints to the Federal Elections Commission, the Ohio Elections Commission and the Ohio Secretary of State.

As of Thursday afternoon, no such notices were posted to the PAC's social media pages.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.