Any time you see a conservative non-lawyer blogger write something about Ohio law, you’re safer to assume the opposite is true.
Today, the Carpetblogger claimed that an entire joke of an Ohio Elections Commission complaint filed by the Summit and Franklin County GOP alleging that the Cordray campaign violated Ohio’s “excess funds” law.
In other news, Ohio has a likely unconstitutional law that limits the ability of political campaigns to retain its own donations.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, before Cordray filed for re-election, Cordray’s campaign donated money to the Franklin County Democratic Party, the Summit County Democratic Party, and the Ohio Democratic Party. In each instance, the donations were not made the those political organizations’ statewide candidate funds. Later, each of those organizations made sizeable but less than Cordray’s donations to Cordray’s campaign from their statewide candidates’ funds. Ohio law forbids the transfer of money from other funds into the state candidates funds. And I have confirmed from reliable sources that there is no evidence that the county parties or the Ohio Democratic Party engaged in any such illegal transfer from one fund to their state candidates’ funds.
So already, on its face, it’s hard to see how it’s possible that Cordray’s donations were “laundered” back to his campaign as the source of each transfer were separate and independent.
And Ohio Citizen Action looked at the same situation back a few weeks ago and concluded there was no violation of Ohio’s laws.
Keeling suggests that R.C. 317.109(D) suggests that Cordray could be thrown off the ballot for violating Ohio’s “excess funds” campaign finance law. Perhaps he should have started with R.C. 3517.109(B) first! (Since it comes earlier in the alphabet and all.)
(B) Each candidate who files for state office, not later than the filing date for that office, shall dispose of any excess funds. Each covered candidate who files for state office, not later than the filing date for that office, shall dispose of any excess aggregate contributions. (emphasis added.)
So, the “excess funds” statute only applies to candidates after they file and only if they retain money after they file beyond the limits permitted in the statute, which for statewide candidates like Cordray can only keep $200,000 plus what the statute calls the “allowable aggregate contribution” of each contributor as defined elsewhere in the statute. Any such access funds they retain after the candidate files must either be donated to the State, to charity, or back to the donors.
The problem? The donations at issue were made before Cordray filed. The “excess funds” statute that Keeling and the GOP County Party Chairman alleged Cordray violated…. doesn’t even apply to what Cordray’s campaign did.
First rule of law, when filing a complaint that alleges a violation of law… make sure the law even applies.
Nine days ago, the Carpetblogger also falsely suggested that Cordray himself accused then AG Betty Montgomery of a similar situation. Except Ohio’s ridiculous “excess funds” laws didn’t even exist in 1998! What Corday accused Montgomery of doing was making an improper in-kind donation to Joe Deters by giving the Ohio GOP her bought television time which the ORP, in turn, used for Deters. A totally different allegation, which had the Carpetblogger actually read the news story he embedded in his own post, he would have realized.
Also, I pretty sure that Cordray lost the Ohio Elections Commission complaint he filed against Montgomery. Funny how that tends to be overlooked as well.
The Cordray campaign is probably just happy to have the opportunity to have something cut through the overshadowing gubernatorial and senate elections:
“This is a bogus complaint that is completely without merit. The campaign has carefully and fully complied with all campaign finance laws. Political parties are known for engaging in stunts like this when their candidates are having serious trouble raising money. The bottom line is that Republicans are throwing mud to distract away from their own failure to raise funds in this race, plain and simple,” said Cordray campaign spokesman Adam Herman in a statement provided to Plunderbund.
For far too long, a large segment of political consultants have subscribed to a theory that any Ohio Elections Commission complaint, no matter how frivolous, is worth filing simply for the news filing it generates. And it only exists because the media refuses to show restraint in providing breathless coverage.
But in this instance, we already had a story from the Dayton Daily News in which the allegations were evaluated, and the experts concluded that there was no violation of law. And yet, the GOP filed their frivolous complaint anyways, and the media reports it without reference to the prior reporting showing that, on its legal merits, the complaint is baseless.
Jon Keeling is an out-of-state hack who doesn’t know Ohio’s election laws and clearly hasn’t read them. So why trust him when he writes something as stupid as suggesting that Cordray could be removed from the ballot?
I’ll tell you one thing. It says a great deal about how phony this so-called GOP “wave” is in Ohio if Republicans only hope at winning the Attorney General’s race is a frivolous elections complaint to try to take Rich Cordray off the ballot.