Ohio GOP illegally funneled $495,000 from federal account, top campaign finance official writes
Money went to support Blackwell gubernatorial bid, GOP spokesman saysThe Ohio Republican Party funneled $495,000 into an account used to support the candidacy of former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell that should have only been used to support candidates for national office, according to a letter from Ohio's current Secretary of State and a GOP spokesman.
The letter says Ohio's Republican party collected nearly half a million dollars from a federal GOP account in October 2006. They also took in $20,000 from a state GOP account the same month and another $25,000 in November 2007.
The letter doesn't indicate which candidates received the party's largesse. But according a state GOP spokesman, the money supported just one candidate -- former Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Blackwell ran for governor in 2006, and lost.
Read the letter in pdf format here.
Blackwell achieved notoriety after allegations he abused his office as the state's top elections official. While serving as Secretary of State, which handles statewide elections, he also doubled as state chairman for George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. Blackwell has been named in more than ten voter disenfranchisement lawsuits.
He was also named in a 2006 lawsuit after his office publicly disclosed the Social Security numbers of Ohio residents.
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office wrote Republican officials Monday. Brunner is a Democrat.
"Pursuant to R.C. 3517.13(T)(1), a state or county political party shall not disburse moneys from any account other than a state candidate fund to make contributions to a state candidate fund," the Secretary's campaign finance administrator J. Curtis Mayhew wrote to the Republican Party's state candidate fund's treasurer Monday."If that is the case, it will be necessary at this time to refund these contributions back to the party committee that made the expenditure."
The letter indicated that the state has been attempting to get the Ohio GOP to issue refund checks for the amounts since at least July.
"The full value of the contributions ($495,000) must be refunded at this time," the letter says. "Please provide a copy of the refund checks as soon as they are written."
A spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party told a reporter the Secretary's interpretation was incorrect.
"We're seeking a legal opinion," the spokesman said. "We feel federal funds can be spent on a statewide race."