Ohio Dems file FEC complaint against Mandel


The Ohio Democratic Party filed a complaint Monday with the Federal Elections Commission against Republican Josh Mandel, the Ohio state treasurer and potential U.S. Senate candidate.

The complaint alleges his Senate campaign committee has taken material from his 2010 state treasurer campaign -- including the Web site and e-mail list -- without paying for it. The complaint says that under FEC regulations, candidates' committees must pay fair-market value for the assets they take over from other committees.

It also alleges he is using material produced for his state treasurer Web site at taxpayer expense and transferring it to his Senate campaign site illegally.

"It seems that the office of State Treasurer of Ohio is creating political content for Mandel so he does not have to pay campaign staff to do the same thing," the Democratic Party's complaint says.

Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party, said the violations amount to accepting an illegal transfer of assets from his campaign as treasurer.

A spokesman for Mr. Mandel said he was not yet ready to respond. Mr. Mandel has not formally declared his candidacy but has formed a campaign committee and is reportedly raising money.

Mr. Mandel is one of three high-profile Republicans who have shown interest in the race against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, along with former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin of Cuyahoga Falls and former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee said the complaints show Democrats are worried.

"Given that Brown's record includes voting for government-run health care that slashed Medicare by over $500 billion, driving the debt past $14 trillion, and raising taxes instead of helping to create Ohio jobs, they have good reason to be concerned," said Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman, but he did not respond to the substance of the complaint.

Chris Maloney, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, made a similar criticism: "Clearly the Democratic Party is afraid for Brown, who has been running for office since 1974 but still can't crack the 50 percent mark in statewide polls against an unnamed Republican," Mr. Maloney said. "The real test will be when he has to stand before voters and explain how his bailouts and failed stimulus continue to do nothing to arrest unemployment growth."

Mr. Barasky said Mr. Mandel's political Web site posted language March 21 nearly identical to that posted on his official state treasurer office Web site three days earlier. According to Mr. Barasky, that's illegal.

The Democratic Party offered several examples of nearly identical passages found on the treasurer Web site and the Mandel campaign site or Facebook page. The complaint calls that a "prohibited contribution from the state of Ohio."

Mr. Barasky said the complaints offer further evidence that Mr. Mandel is "abusing the treasurer's office for campaign purposes." He cited a published report that Mr. Mandel used treasurer funds to mail colorful congratulatory letters to Ohio college graduates with the treasurer seal. The FEC complaint asks for an investigation and fines.

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.