The Ohio Elections Commission rejected an appeal by Aftab Pureval’s lawyers to dismiss a complaint alleging the Democrat congressional candidate violated federal election law.
Instead of tossing the case out, the OEC scheduled a hearing for Nov. 1 in Columbus – just five days before the Nov. 6 election. That could be the worst case scenario for Pureval, depending on the outcome.
The complaint alleges Pureval spent money from his Hamilton County clerk-of-courts campaign account on services rendered to his congressional campaign.
The decision not to dismiss the charge came after a two-and-a-half hour hearing Thursday in Columbus, WVXU reported.
At issue is approximately $30,000, donated to Pureval’s local clerk’s campaign by his mother. The money was spent in the first few months of 2018, and the memo lines of four checks were redacted by a county elections official at the request of someone in the Pureval campaign. Pureval has denied instructing the official himself, but would not tell a Cincinnati reporter who it was that made the request. The official, Sally Krisel, has been lightly disciplined by the Hamilton County Board of Elections, which canceled one of her four weeks vacation.
Also sending up red flags was the fact that the expenditures were made in early 2018, two years before Pureval was up for re-election as Hamilton County clerk of courts in 2020.
Pureval, a relative newby to politics, announced his candidacy on Jan. 31 for the 1st Congressional District seat, which has been held by Rep. Steve Chabot for the past 11 terms.
Mark Miller of Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) filed the complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission alleging Pureval the federal Campaign Finance Act.
The largest single expense was a check for $16,427.79 to GBA Strategies, a Washington, D.C.-based polling firm that handles Democrat polls. After that expense was raised as an issue by The Enquirer, the Pureval campaign released the poll. The campaign argued that the polling was done to determine whether he should run for re-election as clerk or for Congress.
But, as The Ohio Star, the Enquirer, and others have reported, there were no questions about Pureval’s job as county clerk included in the poll.
His clerk of courts campaign also spent $360 on a photographer to shoot his congressional campaign launch on Jan. 31. Pureval lawyer Don McTigue told the board Thursday that was a mistake and that the bill should have been paid from the federal campaign fund.
McTigue argued at Thursday’s hearing in Columbus that if there was a problem with the spending, it should be reviewed by the Federal Elections Commission, not the state commission. Phil Richter, executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission, said the state board rejected that argument, WVXU reported.
Violations of campaign finance laws like this are felonies. They can carry criminal penalties, including fines and/or jail time.
Pureval has focused his campaign on fixing “a corrupt and broken system,” casting himself as a Washington outsider in favor of transparency and high ethics. In the ad below, Pureval says his name means “Sunshine” and he is “incredibly proud” of that.
So it’s ironic that he is now in hot water for hiding the purpose of checks written for campaign expenditures, says Mandi Merritt, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
“For a candidate whose name means ‘Sunshine,’ Aftab Pureval has desperately been trying to keep Ohioans in the dark,” said Merritt in an email.
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.