Head of 'Nonpartisan' Ohio Debate Commission Is a Tim Ryan Donor

Democratic Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) / Getty Images
September 20, 2022

The leader of the nonpartisan Ohio Debate Commission tasked with scheduling the debates between Republican J.D. Vance and Democrat Tim Ryan has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates over the years, including at least one donation to Ryan himself.

The commission's executive director Jill Miller Zimon gave over $13,000 to Democrats between 2006 and 2018, including a $250 check to Ryan in 2014, according to the Federal Election Commission database. Other recipients include Ohio Democratic senator Sherrod Brown, Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and the Ohio Democratic Party.

The debate commission was established in 2018 to ensure "fair and substantive debates," but Zimon's partisan background is causing problems, as there are no debates on the schedule and the Vance campaign says it can't trust the commission to provide a fair debate. Zimon has also run for office as a Democrat and was on the board for a local branch of Planned Parenthood.

"This so-called nonpartisan organization is led by someone who is a financial backer of our opponent and even gave money to Ohio Democrats the year she was hired to run the commission," a spokesman for Vance told the Washington Free Beacon. "Mrs. Zimon's one-sided donor history makes clear that this entire 'debate commission' is a sham, as if her seat on the board of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio and her multiple failed campaigns as a Democrat weren't enough."

The donations are part of a broader trend by self-described nonpartisan debate commissions being staffed by partisan Democrats. A Georgia Senate debate, for example, was organized by a donor to President Joe Biden and Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.). The disclosure of those donations prompted Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R., Ga.) to pull out of that scheduled debate. Similar conflicts of interest led the Republican National Committee to withdraw earlier this year from participating in all future debates held by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The Ohio Debate Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

Zimon's largest donations went to Brown, totaling $5,760. Zimon also donated $3,000 to a Democratic Party-connected political action committee, the Ohio Grassroots Victory Fund, from 2017 to 2018. The Ohio Grassroots Victory Fund states it is working to "win up and down the ballot in … 2022, and 2024."

Among her most recent donations is $600 to the Ohio Democratic Party in March 2018.

Zimon's financial support extends to Democratic presidential candidates as well. From 2015 to 2016, Zimon gave $1,700 to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and associated PACs. In 2012, Zimon gave $260 to then-president Barack Obama's reelection campaign.

Fox News reported on Tuesday that Zimon twice ran unsuccessfully for the Ohio State House on the Democratic ballot in 2014 and 2016. During her campaigns, Zimon was endorsed by several left-wing activist groups, including Progressive Majority, Planned Parenthood, and EMILY's List.

Zimon works on the board of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, according to Fox News. For years, Zimon has been a vocal critic about the Republican Party's position on abortion.

In 2011, Zimon tweeted that Republican opposition to abortion amounts to holding "uteruses hostage." Two years later, she called a pro-life bill in Ohio "awful" and "unhealthy."

A spokeswoman for Ryan did not respond to a request for comment.