Source of donations hard to track
Did you know Donald Trump gave the maximum allowable contribution to help elect Republican John Kasich governor of Ohio? That’s OK. The Donald probably doesn’t know, either. The same is almost certainly true for other “maxed-out” donors. Their names appear as contributors for the Republican Governors Association’s $9 million effort in Ohio on behalf of Kasich. But that compilation apparently is a loose reality, an accounting sleight of hand that represents technical compliance with Ohio campaignfinance disclosure laws but in reality is an arbitrary list of association donors used merely to make the numbers add up.
The association won’t reveal exactly how it accounts for its donations. Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for the association, said internal operations are never discussed publicly, but the group “fully complied with the law” and actually disclosed more than legally required.
The Democratic Governors Association appeared to do much the same thing to “document” the nearly $5 million it spent in the Buckeye State to help Gov. Ted Strickland.
The upshot: Ohio’s watchdog on campaign finances, the secretary of state’s office, can’t track those contributions to see whether they are legal.
Authorities can’t tell, for example, if the same Trump dollars were improperly used to satisfy public-disclosure laws in more than one state. And there’s no way to determine whether the Trump money was secretly earmarked for the Buckeye State, which would be a violation of Ohio law.
Interestingly, even though the association says the contributions were not earmarked, the amounts from Trump and the other major donors match Ohio’s odd campaign-contribution limit — $11,395 — to the dollar.
“It seems like a fiction that there’s no earmarking when the exact amount is given,” said outgoing Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, when The Dispatch raised questions.
But Schrimpf responds by playing his trump card: A U.S. Supreme Court decision this year essentially decreed that such groups as the governors associations are above state law, he said, because “corruption is impossible (and therefore campaign-finance limits are unconstitutional) if advocacy is conducted by a group independent of a candidate and political party.”
So, even the limited accountability provided by the current campaign-finance filings might disappear in light of the high court’s controversial Citizens United decision giving corporations and labor unions free rein to spend money on behalf of campaigns across the country. Neither Congress nor the Ohio General Assembly approved proposals that would have attempted to require such groups to at least disclose where they got the money. to Republicans and GOP causes. With about $5.6 million in contributions, the Lindner family is easily