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.


OLS said...

Are you sure that the Ohioans for Blackwell campaign committee's articles don't include a "savings clause" of "any other legal activity" allowed for campaign committees? If so, it's probably not violating any laws. I couldn't find the articles, though, so I don't know for certain, but I'd be surprised if they didn't have a savings clause. Where did you find the articles? I looked under campaign finance and also under corporate/non-profit filings and couldn't find anything related to the purpose of the organization.

Modern Esquire said...

Not saying that they're violating corporate laws, but Ohio's campaign finance laws. I'm sure Ohioans for Blackwell was organized for the purposes of "any other legal activity," but under Ohio campaign finance laws, a committee must not also report the identity of the candidate it's financially supporting, but also identify the particular office that candidate is seeking.

Right now, Blackwell's campaign finance reports indicate that his campaign committee is still promoting his candidacy for Secretary of State.

I did not review the campaign committee's articles of incorporation or articles of organization, just their campaign finance report.

The result is, that because Blackwell's campaign is still indicating in its reports that Blackwell is a candidate for Secretary of State, and not governor, it's harder for the public to find his campaign finance report (ironically on Secretary of State Blackwell's website).

If you search for all active gubernatorial campaign committees, you won't find Blackwell's campaign on the list. If you search for Blackwell individually, the website indicates that the campaign reports are from his Secretary of State campaign. Therefore, there is some difficulty for the public to find his campaign finance information. You essentially have to pull up his "Secretary of State" campaign information to find his Gubernatorial fundraising and expenses. Thereby, it's harder to find this information than for any other gubernatorial candidate.

Since he's the chief election and campaign finance officer in Ohio, I think that's rather ironic. Petro, who used the same campaign committee in his AG and Auditor races, has updated his campaign finance information to reflect that his campaign is now raising and spending money for his gubernatorial bid. Blackwell's does not reflect that.

obsessivelawstudent said...

Dude - you should link to this guy's blog. He's running for the Ohio 42nd House District.

obsessivelawstudent said...

By the way - I get what you're saying now. Good question. No answer. :)