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Spending by Dann campaign questioned

COLUMBUS - An audit of former Attorney General Marc Dann's campaign committee yesterday questioned tens of thousands of dollars in spending on such things as a security system for his home, airfare, bike rentals, and a Ludacris concert.

In letters sent to Mr. Dann and his former campaign treasurer, Bruce Lev, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office asked for justification of how such expenditures relate to campaign activity.

The committee has 21 days to respond and, depending on that response, the matter could be referred to the Ohio Elections Commission, said Brunner spokesman Jeff Ortega.

The letter also noted Mr. Dann, as the candidate, could be forced to reimburse the committee for any disallowed expenditures.

Campaign committees are regulated under state law and are separate from the candidate's duties in office. The committees solicit limited contributions from individuals, political action committees, and political parties.

"[State law] expressly prohibits the conversion of campaign funds for the personal or business benefit of the candidate or any other person,'' the letter signed by J. Curtis Mayhew, Ms. Brunner's campaign finance administrator, stated.

Mr. Dann resigned under pressure on May 14 after less than 17 months in office.

He admitted engaging in an extramarital affair with an employee and acknowledged that his behavior may have contributed to an office atmosphere that resulted in to two sexual harassment complaints against a top aide.

Mr. Lev resigned as campaign treasurer in April.

The audit by the state's top elections official is one of a number of investigations related to Mr. Dann's activities as attorney general and as a candidate before and after winning the office in 2006.

Mr. Dann resigned on the same day that Ohio Inspector General Tom Charles raided his offices.

Federal and state authorities continue to investigate the sexual harassment claims, and the FBI is reportedly interested in Mr. Dann's fund-raising activities with gambling interests outside his own campaign.

The audit indicated that various campaign reports included a total of $4,300 vaguely referred to as "refunds'' to the committee from Mr. Dann, all in 2007 when he was attorney general. The audit requested additional information to reconcile the refunds with committee expenditures.

A number of the expenditures questioned in the secretary of state's audit were noted in the Dann for Ohio Committee's publicly disclosed spending reports as being related to fund-raisers, but the audit could at times find no record of money being raised for the committee from such events.

One example was the $329 spent for a concert headlined by Ludacris at the Youngstown Convocation Center on April 5, 2007.

Also among the questioned expenditures was $33,525 for security improvements to Mr. Dann's home, including a security system, lights, locks, windows, and doors.

"Due to the resignation of Mr. Dann as attorney general on May 14, 2008, these security enhancements no longer appear related to the performance of any public office duties," reads the letter. "Therefore, it is necessary at this time for the candidate, Marc Dann, to reimburse the current fair market value of the security enhancements/upgrades."

The audit questions thousands of dollars in airline ticket, bike-rental, hotel, car-rental, meal, and other expenses for what appeared to be a trip for four people to California in April, 2007.

The invoice from a two-night stay at the Fairmont Inn Sonoma noted a charge for "spa gratuity.'' The invoice also indicated $100 in bike-rental fees, which appeared to represent rentals for four people.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com,

or 614-221-0496.

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