Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Is Ken Blackwell's fundraising legal??

[DISCLAIMER: I am NOT an expert in election law, and this post is not a legal opinion. In fact, it's a call for legal opinion and commentary. I am NOT accusing anyone of violating any laws, but merely asking if someone more knowledgeable than I can explain the legal issues raised below.]

R.C. 3517.10 requires every campaign committee that receives a contribution or made an expenditure in connection with the nomination or election of any candidate for a statewide elected office to file a full, true, and itemized statement, made under penalty of election falsification, setting forth in detail the contributions and expenditures of the campaign.

According to Ken Blackwell for Governor's website, the website is paid for by Ohioans for Blackwell. However, according to Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's website, "Ohioans for Blackwell" is a campaign committee organized for the purpose of electing Ken Blackwell Secretary of State, not Governor.

Clearly, the campaigner treasurer for Ohioans for Blackwell never filed any paperwork changing the committee's purpose from his election to Secretary of State to Governor. It is legal, under Ohio law, for a campaign committee to transfer leftover funds from a prior election to a campaign committee dedicated to elect the candidate for a different office. (However, federal law prohibits Ted Strickland from transferring money from his Congressional campaign fund to his gubernatorial fund, I believe.)

Contrast Attorney General Jim Petro's gubernatorial campaign. Although he, too, is using the same campaign committee name ("Citizens for Jim Petro") and treasurer that he used in his Attorney General campaign, he did change his campaign finance report to reflect that the campaign committee was for another office, namely, Governor. So, if you search for Jim Petro's campaign finance report for governor on the Secretary of State's website, you can locate his report. However, if you search for Ken Blackwell's gubernatorial campaign finance report, you won't find it, even if you ask the site to pull up every gubernatorial campaign finance report. You can only find his campaign committee report from his Secretary of State race, and in that report is actually the campaign contributions and expenses for his gubernatorial bid.

In the end, I'm not suggesting that anyone who has contributed to Blackwell did so under the mistaken impression that they were doing anything other than supporting his gubernatorial bid. And I could find no legal authority that says that a campaign committee organized to elect a candidate for one stated office cannot expend money to elect that candidate to another, unstated office. If someone does know of any authority that says one way or the other, please let me know. However, the S.o.S' forms DO require a campaign committee to state what office the candidate being supported by the committee is seeking. Ironically, though, the only person who has the definitive authority to decide the legal impact of this oversight is none other than Blackwell himself.

I am not suggesting anything nefarious, but only a minor oversight. I don't believe this is an attempt to hide contributors. However, this oversight does make it more difficult for the public to find out exactly who is financially supporting Ken Blackwell's gubernatorial campaign and where the money is going. And since he is currently responsible for making such information (of ANY candidate) readily available to the public, the fact that his own campaign finance report information is the hardest of any gubernatorial candidate to locate is embarrassing.

Guess who's back? Back again....

Sorry for the extended absence. After passing the Ohio bar exam, I've been busy getting grounded in the practice of law and trying to figure out how I can balance work, life, and blogging. Until now, I've done that by dropping blogging. However, I believe there's just too many issues going on that haven't been discussed.

So, I couldn't let the blog die. Consider this a re-birth. I'm working on an exclusive right now, but I need to do some digging before I can post it.

Hopefully, it'll get your attention back!

Miss ya!