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Ohio Sec. of State Frank LaRose sends out fundraising request disguised as important letter

Ohio Sec. of State Frank LaRose sends out fundraising request disguised as important letter
Posted at 6:20 PM, May 26, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent out a fundraising request disguised as an important letter, confusing and upsetting voters.

Normally, Bill Joiner just throws political mail aside, but this one looked official. Obtained by News 5, the letter's return address states "Secretary of State Frank LaRose." Beneath it, "DO NOT DISCARD OR DESTROY," also including "REGISTERED DOCUMENT ENCLOSED."

"I thought it might have to do with the legitimacy of my enrollment to vote," Joiner said.

Current Ohio law allows the Secretary of State to remove the registration from inactive voters. A way to find out if they are inactive is if they don’t respond to government mailings.

RELATED: How to find out if your voter registration was removed in Ohio’s mass purge

But much to Joiner’s surprise, it ended up just being a voter poll and request for money from LaRose. The options range from $50 to $5,000 and also leave room for the voter to choose any amount.

"I've been horrified by it and thinking that LaRose is using his office in this way, taking advantage of his position," he said. "It was an attempt to mislead me."

The Cincinnati registered Democratic voter isn't sure how he got the request, clearly meant for Republicans. News 5 spoke to six Republicans about it, all of whom felt the same way.

News 5 tried to speak with LaRose, but he was unavailable. The secretary addresses voters in the letter and signs it.

"My name is Frank LaRose, and I'm Ohio's hard-charging, conservative Secretary of State," LaRose wrote. "My most important job is raising three daughters with my beautiful wife Lauren, but serving as your Republican Secretary of State is a close second!"

The letter goes on to say, "Having run for statewide office twice, I know how challenging and expensive a winning political campaign is. Your gift of $50... will help meet expenses like running ads to expose the Biden Democrats' terrible record of woke socialism, identify swing voters who can be persuaded to vote for conservative Republican leaders up and down the ticket, and much more."

Atiba Ellis is a nonpartisan election law expert and professor at Case Western Reserve University. He said LaRose technically didn't break any laws.

"This letter could be seen as, 'That sort of look sketchy,' and maybe it's an unfair advantage here, but isn't really illegal," Ellis said.

In the fine print, the letter shows it is a collaboration between LaRose and the Leadership for Ohio Fund, a 527 political group. Working with such a group would be illegal for candidates, which is the bigger issue Ellis sees with the letter.

What makes it legal is that the secretary hasn’t declared candidacy yet. He is expected to join the 2024 U.S. Senate race.

"This gets into the sort of slippery gray area of is it just really fundraising or is it trying to campaign without saying you're trying to campaign?" Ellis added.

LaRose would need to fundraise if he decides to announce he is running, which this money could help with.

As of right now, everything in this letter is legal.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.