Butler County Democrats call Republicans to task on messy bookkeeping

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Butler County Democrats call Republicans to task on messy bookkeeping

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Butler County GOP headquarters at Bridgewater Falls in Fairfield Twp. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Despite assurances by the Butler County Republican Party that financial reports “will be made complete,” county Democrats say they can’t see how the GOP can verify a dozen anonymous donations, such as a $200 anonymous donation in an envelope left on a desk.

There were also 80 people’s donations not identified with the donor’s full name, and a $14 cash donation from someone identified as “Donald Trumpster,” according to an audit recently completed by the Butler County Board of Elections.

The Journal-News reported earlier this week that tens of thousands of dollars invested by the Butler County Republican Party into helping Donald Trump win Butler County and Ohio in the presidential election were not properly reported to the Federal Elections Commission, according to the audit.

“Campaign finance laws exist for voters to know who is influencing our elections,” said Butler County Democratic Party spokeswoman Jennifer Rieger. “The GOP fundamentally violated multiple federal and state laws. This hasn’t been ‘fixed.’ They can’t ‘fix’ this.”

The Butler County Democratic Party took the GOP to task on Twitter this week for its messy bookkeeping, and called the party out for similar messy finance reporting for the 2016 primary.

Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall declined to comment on the tweets.

“The story has already been told,” he said Wednesday. “The party has already filed the required reports and explanations have been given on how to correct them. Everything is on a good path.”

The Butler County Democratic Party’s tweets also questioned Hall’s comments the party was “overwhelmed” by the amount of support, saying they had just as much support in 2012. However, that’s not true.

There was significantly less support in 2012 general election over 2016, according to campaign finance records. More than 850 contributions were made in the 2012 general election which equaled more than $88,600 in contributions. By contrast, there were more than 2,500 contributions made in the 2016 general election which equaled more than $113,400 in contributions.

Some of the problems, though, in the GOP’s 2016 pre- and post-general election reports were also evident in a 2016 amended post-primary financial disclosure, according to the county elections office audit.

The audit showed:

  • The GOP spent from its general account — and not a state candidates account as required by law — more than $3,200 on Ohio Statehouse candidates Joe Mulligan and Courtney Combs, including a $2,000 donation to Combs’ campaign and more than $1,200 in postage for both campaigns
  • A different total for contributions received than what was reported
  • Contributions from statewide political action committees did not have registration numbers as required by law
  • More than $25,600 in expenditures lacked a receipt, including a $14,800 expenditure for the 2016 Lincoln Day Dinner event
  • More than $9,000 of in-kind donations were included in monetary donations

This isn’t the first time the GOP hasn’t reported activity to the FEC, and it hasn’t reported federal or state activity for the past few years, according to a review of federal and state election documents by the Journal-News.

The Butler County Republican Party had a federal campaign committee for the 2009-2010 reporting cycle, but online records show that’s the only time the party filed with FEC. The party transferred on three occasions a total of $500 from the county campaign account to the federal account.

The party still maintains an active state candidate fund through the Ohio Secretary of State, but hasn’t spent or accepted any money from or to that account since 2014.

In its letter to the GOP, the Butler County Board of Elections wrote it “may consider referring this matter to the FEC for their review.”

However, Elections Deputy Director Jocelyn Bucaro told the Journal-News earlier that the office will not refer the matter to the FEC at this time “because the Butler County Republican Party indicated verbally that it intended to self-report the issues raised in our campaign finance audit.”

“The board intends to follow up to confirm the party has self-reported,” she said.

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