Butler County GOP records flawed, audit shows

Hamilton Journal-News

Tens of thousands of dollars invested by the Butler County Republican Party into helping Donald Trump win Butler County and Ohio in the presidential election were not properly reported to the Federal Elections Commission, according to a recent audit.

Audits recently completed by the Butler County Board of Elections turned up missing pages of campaign finance reports, laxed record-keeping, and more than $43,000 in discrepancies related to the 2016 general election.

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In a four-month time frame, more than $84,000 was spent by the GOP in support of the Trump election campaign — including rental for two Trump campaign offices, reimbursements for spending on Facebook ads, and paying for Donald Trump Jr.’s campaign stop at Oxford.

None of those costs, however, was reported to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), according to a Journal-News review of campaign finance reports. Because more than $5,000 was spent in support of the presidential race, the party was required by law to register with the FEC.

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University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven said, “This sounds like an awfully convenient amount of ignorance about the laws that apply.”

Niven and other political science experts contacted by the Journal-News said it’s not uncommon for errors to arise when dealing with campaign finance reports, especially with sizable reports like the Butler County GOP filed.

But, “it’s somewhat embarrassing for a professional political operation to be called out on so many errors,” said Xavier University political science professor Mack Mariani.

“This is not for amateurs,” Niven said about the laws surrounding campaign contributions.

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Jennifer Rieger, a Butler County Democratic Party spokeswoman, said, “We will continue to monitor this to ensure Republicans are held accountable and the laws are enforced.”

In its letter to the GOP, the Butler County Board of Elections wrote it “may consider referring this matter to the FEC for their review.”

However, Elections Deputy Director Jocelyn Bucaro told the Journal-News the office will not refer the matter to the FEC at this time “because the Butler County Republican Party indicated verbally that it intended to self-report the issues raised in our campaign finance audit.”

“The board intends to follow up to confirm the party has self-reported,” she said.