pay2playThe documentary Pay 2 Play, opening September 26 in Columbus and Cincinnati, brings us back to Ohio’s outlandish Noe/Coingate scandal to tell the tale of quid pro quo.   Described by filmmaker John Wellington Ennis as capturing “the grand opera of Ohio politics,” the 2005 scandal highlights everything that is wrong with our system.  How political connections and campaign contributions led to the state of Ohio investing in beanie babies continues to be jaw-dropping.

To remind us all that we aren’t just talking about corruption from years ago, in the film the man described by senior columnist Tom Suddes as Ohio Senate’s “de facto 34th senator,” lobbyist Neil Clark explains what “pay-to-play” is.   Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramhoff (remember the scandal that brought down former Congressman Bob Ney?) also paints a picture of our “legalized system of bribery.”    Economist Robert Reich and Professor Lawrence Lessig of the May Day PAC expound on “pay-to-play’s” cost to democracy.  The film provides a searing portrait of how our election system is failing us and includes The Nation’s John Nichols and linguist Noam Chomsky, as well as Ohioans Cliff Arnebeck, Subodh Chandra and Bob Fitrakis.

Filmmaker John Wellington Ennis returns to Ohio again for the ALEC protest in Cincinnati in 2011.  Described in a Los Angeles Times review as “researched, sourced and interviewed exhaustively,” the film covers implications of Citizens United v. FEC and legislative redistricting.

The films dives in to the power of protest and art and explores possible solutions. “The difference with this movie is that it actually means to inspire hope,” reported the Washington Post’s Michael Sullivan.  

At many of the screenings there will be an opportunity to discuss reform strategies following the film.  On Sunday, September 28 at 2:00pm at the Gateway Film Center (1550 N. High St., Columbus), Sam Gresham, Common Cause Ohio chair, will moderate a discussion following the film.  Panelists will include Pay 2 Play’s director John Wellington Ennis; Sandy Theis, president of Theis Consulting and former bureau chief of the Cleveland Plain Dealer ‘s Statehouse Bureau; and Dan Tokaji, professor of law and senior fellow at Election Law @ Moritz at The Ohio State University, and author of The New Soft Money: Outside Spending in Congressional Elections.

Michael Greenman from Move to Amend will lead a discussion following the film on Friday, September 26 at 7:00pm and Sunday, September 28 at 7:00pm screenings at the Gateway Film Center.  Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio will lead a discussion following the screening on Saturday, September 27 at 7:00pm at the Gateway.

Pay 2 Play is also playing at the Esquire Theater (320 Ludlow Ave, Cincinnati) from September 26-Oct 2.

For more information and a trailer, visit


This post comes to you from our friend Catherine Turcer, policy analyst for Common Cause Ohio