COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci traveled repeatedly aboard a Cleveland strip-club owner's private plane during his run for Ohio governor without properly reporting the costs of those flights, according to an Associated Press review.
The AP identified about a dozen instances when Renacci was shuttled to gubernatorial campaign events by businessman Don Ksiezyk without reimbursing him for travel costs. That included trips from their hometown of Wadsworth to Cincinnati, Columbus, Zanesville, Dayton and Cleveland between August 2017 and January.
Renacci, who has since dropped his governor bid to run for U.S. Senate, first reported specific payments to Ksiezyk in conjunction with Senate campaign travel. Renacci seeks to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in November.
Campaign finance filings for his governor's campaign show about $1,600 in expenses apparently associated with the Ksiezyk flights, including to aviation operators and airports. No direct payments were reported to Ksiezyk, who owns Peek-A-Boos and Bug-A-Boos in Cleveland and is a pilot.
Efforts to reach Ksiezyk by phone and email were unsuccessful.
"According to Rep. Renacci, during the governor's race the campaign reimbursed for fuel and maintenance directly as opposed to the in-kind method that's used in the Senate race," Senate campaign spokeswoman Leslie Shedd said. "Both methods are permissible."
Shedd said the $1,600 Renacci reported spending on flight-related expenses more than covered the costs of the flights the AP identified.
She said a PA28-292 Archer II like Ksiezyk's costs about $72 an hour to operate, meaning the sum he reported would have covered about 22 hours of operation. That's more than the number of hours he was on the plane, she said.
Campaign finance experts said Ohio law requires candidates to separately report the value of the travel.
"The best way I could say it, any expenses that you would experience for travel related to your campaign should be fully reflected in the campaign finance report," said Philip Richter, executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission.
Richter was speaking generically, not directly to Renacci's situation.
Shedd said the rule doesn't apply in this case. She called Ksiezyk a campaign volunteer "free to donate his time to pilot the plane." In his Senate campaign, however, Renacci reimbursed Ksiezyk $2,500 for flying him places.
Among gubernatorial campaign stops by Renacci that dovetail with flight activity by Kseizyk's plane were an appearance at the Muskingum County Fair; a meet-and-greet with Hamilton County Recorder Norbert Nadel in Cincinnati; meetings in Dayton with manufacturing and real estate groups and the local newspaper; and an appearance at Cleveland's Columbus Day Parade.