Election board to examine Pureval's campaign expenses

Posted at 3:45 PM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-20 23:45:56-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Questions about whether Aftab Pureval violated Ohio campaign laws will be decided in Columbus.

The Ohio Elections Commission decided by a 6-1 vote to hold a full evidentiary procedure during a one-hour hearing Thursday morning.

Pureval is the Hamilton County clerk of courts and a Democratic candidate for Congress. The issue before the commission is whether Pureval used funds from his clerk of courts campaign to pay for expenses in his run for Congress against Republican Rep. Steve Chabot.

Attorney Brian Shrive, speaking on behalf of client Mark Miller, said that's exactly what happened with a $16,427 check on which the memo line was redacted. The Pureval campaign originally said the money was for consulting, but the check stated "poll balance."

"Does it smell right when they say 'consulting,' and then redact 'poll balance?' And when they're asked by the press about it, they say it's for a poll for both the Congressional and state race," Shrive said.

Shrive also brought up work done by Byron Photography for Pureval's U.S. Congressional race kickoff. The question is: Who paid for it?

"There's no payment from the federal campaign to Byron Photography," Shrive said. "Clearly, the state campaign paid for assets that were for the federal campaign."

Commission members took a 20-minute break to study the transcript of Wednesday's Hamilton County Board of Elections meeting. 

Then, Pureval attorney Brian Svoboda stepped to the podium to argue everything done was by the book.

"Ohio law and federal law expressly provide for the concurrent operation of the local campaign and the federal campaign at the same time," he said.

Svoboda suggested that questions of expenses for a federal campaign need to be heard by the Federal Elections Commission, not a state agency.

"There's no documentation that any of these expenses were anything other than what the Ohio and federal rules expressly contemplated that a committee might ordinarily incur," Svoboda said.

In response to the meeting Thursday, the Pureval campaign released a statement saying, in part:

"Aftab Pureval acted legally and appropriately with respect to all campaign finance reporting. The Ohio Elections Commission did not find today that any violation occurred, but rather has given the parties the chance to make their case at a subsequent hearing. We will take full opportunity to prove that this partisan complaint has no merit, and that we fully complied with the law."

Commission members are trying to see if they can get the issue resolved before the November General Election. Possible hearing dates are Oct. 11 or Nov. 1.