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Published: Friday, 10/26/2007

PAC gifts put Buehrer financially ahead of Latta

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Going into the final two weeks of the 5th District Republican primary for Congress, a Washington-based political action committee has given State Sen. Steve Buehrer a financial edge over State Rep. Bob Latta.

Mr. Buehrer (R., Delta) raised $256,167, according to filings yesterday with the Federal Elections Commission. He has $237,175 on-hand, including $48,700 he received during the past week.

His cash on-hand is slightly less than the amount Mr. Latta (R., Bowling Green) raised during the entire first month of the race. Mr. Latta lent his own campaign $50,000 from his family s savings, leaving him with $150,185 on-hand for radio and TV ads before the Nov. 6 primary election.

Energy executives, Texas ranchers, and Palm Beach retirees are among those underwriting Mr. Buehrer, who tapped a gusher of cash thanks to bundled contributions from the Club for Growth.

More than 60 percent of the funds raised by Mr. Buehrer originated with the Club for Growth, a PAC that lobbies for low taxes, limited government, and free trade.

The bundled contributions largely came from outside Ohio. Donors in the Club for Growth network range from New Canaan, Conn., to Sheboygan, Wis., to Carmel, Calif.

We planned this race well, Mr. Buehrer said. From the second the governor put down the starting flag, we knew we had a six-week campaign and wanted to have as many resources as we could in the last 10 days.

About 90 percent of Mr. Latta s donors live in Ohio, a difference between the two campaigns that he said will generate more value at the ballot box.

Not only do they contribute, but they ve got relatives and friends within the district, Mr. Latta said. It s a big advantage for the folks at home to support you.

Independent of Mr. Buehrer, the Club for Growth has spent an additional $266,024, mostly on TV ads that criticize Mr. Latta for supporting a 2003 state budget proposal that included a temporary sales tax hike. Mr. Buehrer voted against the budget proposal, defying then-Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, and party leaders.

Both candidates say they want to cut federal taxes, assuming despite a history of budget deficits that the cuts would stimulate the economy enough to replace lost tax revenue.

When paired with the separate Club for Growth expenditures, the Buehrer machine has a total war chest of $570,891.

What connection do these people have to northwest Ohio? Mr. Latta asked. Do we want this group to be able to buy an election? I don t think that s what voters want.

Mr. Buehrer said that the current filings do not show the $1, $5, and $25 contributions given to his campaign by residents within the district, adding that those donations will be just as significant in an electoral victory as the Club for Growth s participation.

Democrat Robin Weirauch has said she used the past month to prepare for the Dec. 11 runoff election, but the veteran candidate managed to scrimp together $40,354 before the Oct. 17 deadline.

Her campaign funds have gone to computer software ($2,500), photos and Web videos ($2,625), and a fund-raising consultant ($5,000).

Unions donated $11,000 after the deadline. That arms Mrs. Weirauch with $37,845 on-hand as she attempts to topple 50 years of GOP control in the district.

I m very enthustiastic about our fund-raising and I m confident we ll have the resources we need, Mrs. Weirauch said.

The Sept. 5 death of Paul Gillmor triggered the special election. Mr. Gillmor beat Mr. Latta by 27 votes in the 1988 Republican primary, securing the chance to succeed Mr. Latta s father, Delbert, in the House of Representatives.

Other candidates in the race, Democrat George Mays and Republicans Mark Hollenbaugh, Fred Pieper, and Mike Smitley did not raise enough money to require them to file campaign finance reports.

Contact Joshua Boak at: jboak@theblade.com or 419-724-6728.



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