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GOP files elections financing complaint against Ohio AG

Shawn Foucher • Jul 30, 2010 at 2:37 PM


GOP leaders in two Ohio counties have filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission, accusing state Attorney General Richard Cordray of violating campaign finance laws.

"In this case particularly, we have a path of bread crumbs that lead right to what they're trying to do," said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party. He and Summit County Republican Party executive director Deborah Walsh filed the complaint Tuesday.

They allege Cordray contributed excess campaign funds -- about $765,000 -- to county and state Democratic Party offices, while those offices later contributed much of the money back to Cordray's campaign.

Cordray shuffled the money around to avoid state election laws limiting the funds statewide candidates can carry from one election cycle to another, according to the complaint.

As attorney general, Cordray's carryover limit from one election cycle to the next is $200,000.

Adam Herman, Cordray's campaign spokesman, said the complaint has no merit whatsoever.

"This is a bogus complaint," Herman said. "(Cordray's) campaign has carefully and fully complied with the campaign finance laws.

"They're just throwing mud as a way to distract from their failure to raise funds," Herman said of Republican Party leaders. "We're confident this will be dismissed as the political stunt that it is."

Elected in November 2008, Cordray faces Republican challenger Mike DeWine -- the former U.S. senator -- on the November ballot.

Cordray had more than $1.1 million left in his war chest from the 2008 campaign.

In February -- fast approaching the filing deadline for the 2010 election cycle -- he contributed $765,000 to five Democratic Party organizations in Ohio, the complaint said.

The contributions were made in a six-day period. Less than four months later, those same organizations contributed $493,000 to Cordray's committee, the complaint said.

Cordray used the lower-level Democratic Party offices as "parking spaces" for the funds, the complaint said.

Ohio law requires candidates to shed excess campaign funds in one of three ways: donate it to a charity, return it to donors, or hand it over to the state treasury.

"Richard Cordray is ignoring campaign finance law and getting away with it," said Alex Arshinkoff, Summit County Republican Party's chairman. "The public will see that Cordray's campaign was wiring money to Democratic leaders at the last minute in a frantic attempt to hold on to $765,000 of illegal money."

Preisse offered this: "It's a shame that Ohio's own attorney general is breaking the laws he swore to protect."

The complaint says Cordray is required to give the excess funds to the state, and he should not be able to appear on the November ballot.

Herman, meanwhile, chalked the accusations up to sour grapes.

"All these contributions were 100 percent legal," he said.

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