By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Nearly $55 million was raised in the fight over public worker collective bargaining rights in Ohio this fall, according to campaign finance documents.
The money was raised by both sides of the "Issue 2" battle, which culminated in the anti-union bill's defeat by a 62-to-38 margin in the November 8 election.
The bill, which sharply curbed collective bargaining rights for the state's 350,000 public workers, failed in 80 of Ohio's 88 counties.
Three groups that fought against the law, known as Senate Bill 5, raised approximately $43 million, with We Are Ohio responsible for slightly more than $42 million, according to campaign finance documents released late last week.
"We had more than 12,000 small donors," Dennis Willard, director of communications for We Are Ohio, told Reuters. "That number is more than I've seen in any Ohio campaign."
Building a Better Ohio, a non-profit started to support Issue 2, raised slightly more than $12 million, according to the Ohio Secretary of State filings.
Senate Bill 5 was signed by Republican Governor John Kasich in March.
Under Senate Bill 5, unionized public workers could not strike and could negotiate wages and hours but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. The bill also would have discontinued the right of firefighters and police to negotiate staffing levels and safety equipment.
Before the election, We Are Ohio also recruited 17,000 volunteers who helped gather 1.3 million signatures, more than a million more than required by law, in order to get Issue 2 on the ballot in November, Willard said.
A ballot initiative opposing a key requirement of President Barack Obama's health care law was fought with far less money, according to campaign financial filings.
Opponents of Issue 3, a constitutional amendment aimed at letting state residents opt out of mandatory requirements of the federal health care law, raised a little more than $51,000. The group Ohioans for Healthcare Freedom, a pro-Issue 3 group, raised $819,000.
(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jerry Norton)