- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Republican Party paid $300,000 in legal bills for a Republican consultant who spearheaded a challenge that bumped a Libertarian out of the 2014 governor’s race, a filing at the state Elections Commission shows.

The motion came in response to an election complaint filed by former Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl. Earl has alleged that the re-election campaign of Republican Gov. John Kasich and consultant Terry Casey conspired to disqualify him from the ballot and that Casey’s resulting legal bills constitute an unreported in-kind contribution.

Casey’s response to the complaint, filed ahead of a hearing scheduled for Thursday, indicates that he received four payments totaling $300,000 from the party’s Executive Committee between November and February. The money went to pay the law firm Zeiger, Tigges & Little for legal advice and representation in Casey’s challenge to Earl’s nominating petitions.

Casey testified during a separate lawsuit filed by Ohio Libertarians to communicating with Kasich’s re-election campaign ahead of filing a successful protest of Earl’s nominating petitions, but he rejected suggestions that Kasich or his campaign orchestrated the effort. One theory was that a Libertarian candidate would draw votes away from the Republican governor, who had angered the far right of the party with some of his decisions.

Earl’s complaint alleges Kasich’s team broke election law and owes a fine of $720,000.

When contacted Tuesday, Casey said he would let the filing stand for itself. He repeated what he has stated consistently: that he acted on his own to challenge Earl out of concern his candidacy was orchestrated by Democrats.

Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said Casey approached chairman Matt Borges after a federal case concluded Democrats acted inappropriately to recruit Earl in the first place.

“Whatever is bad for Democrats in Ohio is good for us, so the party happily agreed to help pay the bill for the case that exposed the Democrats’ fraud,” he said in an email. “The chairman was never involved in this matter from the beginning, but is glad that it concluded in embarrassing the Ohio Democrats.”

In its response, the Kasich/Taylor for Ohio committee said that Earl “focuses on a narrow set of facts and ignores his own evidence to reach a contorted, and erroneous, conclusion that Casey’s actions were an in-kind contribution to” the campaign.

The campaign asserts that Casey’s decision “was not made with the consent, coordination, cooperation, consultation, request or suggestion” of the Kasich campaign.

The campaign also noted the payments were reported, not unreported. State campaign finance filings available online confirm four payments were reported - $100,000 on Nov. 19, $100,000 on Dec. 22, $50,000 on Dec. 29 and $50,000 on Feb. 24.

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