Aftab Pureval’s secret poll is secret no more.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has obtained a copy of the poll, and it proves exactly what the candidate for Ohio’s district-1 congressional seat has been denying since the controversy about his campaign spending first came up — that it was conducted for his congressional campaign, not his local re-election campaign that is two years off in the future.
Well, there’s a problem with that. It’s illegal to use funds donated for a state or local office to pay for expenses in a federal campaign.
Pureval has been accused of doing exactly that, but he and his lawyers have steadfastly claimed that he acted within the confines of the law. A poll, paid for by his clerk account the same month he launched his congressional bid, was at the center of the allegations that prompted an official complaint to be filed with the Ohio Elections Commission.
At issue are two donation checks for a total of approximately $30,000, written to his clerk campaign by his own mother. But it appears, in the absence of some new information, that this money was never intended for use by his clerk campaign and may have been an attempt to avoid federal campaign finance laws that limit the amount an individual can donate to a single federal candidate to $5,000 per year.
And since the money was used for polling, it begs the question: Why would Pureval be polling in February 2018 for a clerk-of-courts race still two years away? Was this polling actually done for his congressional run?
Thanks to a bombshell article Wednesday in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the truth about Pureval’s campaign spending tactics is now available for all who want to see and understand. The Enquirer reports:
The poll itself – which until now has been held secret by the Pureval campaign –undermines repeated claims by them that it was for both a future clerk of courts run and an exploration of a congressional run. The poll is headlined, ‘Polling in OH-1 shows opportunity for Aftab Pureval.’ And there’s not one question about the 2020 clerk of court’s race.”
Adding to the drama are questions about why the memo line of a $16,000 check stating the purpose of the payment had been redacted, or blacked out. In an emergency meeting of the Hamilton County Board of Elections last week, it was revealed that a board employee redacted the information after being asked if it was legal to do so by Pureval’s campaign manager, Sarah Topy. The redacted line, later unveiled, read “Poll balance,” and the check was written to a Washington, D.C., polling company that frequently works for Democrat campaigns for federal office.
Chris Martin, who blogs for the National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, said in a post Wednesday that if Pureval wants to maintain that his poll was for both campaigns, then he has serious questions to answer.
- Why is the polling memo entitled “Polling in OH-01 Shows Opportunity For Aftab Pureval”?
- Why do the “key findings” discuss the congressional race but don’t mention the clerk of courts race at any point?
- The only time Aftab Pureval’s position of clerk of courts was mentioned was in the context of how that title would influence a voter’s choice for Congress. Why is there no question about his clerk of courts race?
As Martin points out, there are indications of a cover up. That’s because the Pureval campaign initially claimed all of the spending in question was for his clerk-of-courts campaign.
In an Aug. 3 article, Pureval’s campaign manager, Sarah Topy, told the Enquirer all donations and expenses from the clerk campaign account are related to the clerk’s office. That now appears to have been a lie.
Then, during a county Board of Elections meeting last week, a Pureval campaign attorney changed the story and insisted the spending in question was for both his state and federal campaigns.
Here is a timeline of events:
8/13/2018: “Pureval told the Enquirer earlier this month that the $30,000 his county campaign spent in the first six months of the year relates to his clerk’s office. But the Enquirer found publicly available campaign finance reports that raise questions of whether Pureval used his clerk-of-courts campaign account for expenses in his federal race.”
9/18/2018: “Pureval’s campaign has said all of the spending was for the Clerk of Courts campaign.” – (Cincinnati Enquirer)
9/19/2018: After Wednesday’s meeting, officials from Pureval’s campaign showed copies of the un-redacted checks to reporters, and attorney O’Shea spoke briefly.
“Frankly, I haven’t seen the poll but what I can tell you is that polling can be done for both races,” O’Shea said. “There is no law that prohibits running for two offices at the same time, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Aftab is running for federal office and for re-election.”
“Is that poll for the federal race?” a reporter asked.
“It’s for both races,” O’Shea told WCPO.
The Enquirer story, which published the polling memo, proves it was solely intended for his congressional campaign – which clearly contradicts the previous claims by Pureval and his attorney.
While the official ruling is up to the Ohio Elections Commission, it certainly appears that Pureval broke the law, says Mandi Merritt, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. Regardless, it definitely proves that he lied to voters.
“As more continues to break about Aftab Pureval’s illegal campaign spending, Ohio voters should be wary,” she said. “Aftab Pureval continues to mislead the public and cover up his mistakes, and this is disqualifying. Ohioans deserve a Congressman that is honest and transparent, something that Aftab Pureval clearly is not.”
If the Ohio Elections Commission finds that Pureval did indeed use local campaign funds to pay for his federal race against Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH-1), that would be a felony punishable by fines and possible jail time.
Read the Enquirer’s entire story here:
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.