Ohio election law: Finney Law Firm wins before the Ohio Elections Commission on Smitherman “dark money” case

It has taken three long years (so far), but yesterday we won two important victories before the Ohio Elections Commission on the case of Smitherman v. Cincinnatians for Jobs Now.  Read about that in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer, here.

In the 2013 election, several Cincinnati Labor Unions, led by Rob Richardson, Sr., donated $300,000 to a campaign to defeat Christopher Smitherman in his election campaign.  The campaign ran ads on black-targeted radio stations and distributed campaign literature in African American neighborhoods smearing Council member Christopher Smitherman’s good name.

Importantly, when the dust settled from that election, Cincinnatians for Jobs Now filed no campaign finance reports showing the source of the funds and the expenditure of the monies designed to defeat Smitherman, something that Ohio Election Law requires.  This is part of what is known as a “black money” effort to influence the outcome of election campaigns.

For three years, Jonathan White, who formed Cincinnatians for Jobs Now claimed he acted alone in forming and executing the massive campaign to undermine Smitherman.  Amazingly, he claims that he opened a P.O. Box, but gave no one the address.  Still, magically the $300,000 checks form Richardson showed up in that P.O. Box.  These lies are necessary to avoid a finding that Cincinnati for Jobs Now was running an illegal Political Action Committee by the Ohio Elections Commission.

After years of delay by the Ohio Elections Commission, yesterday saw two important developments in this case:

  1. Cincinnatians for Jobs Now, to avoid a worse outcome from the OEC, confessed that they in fact ran an illegal political action committee, and should have reported the sources and expenditures of their campaign funds as required by Ohio law; and
  2. When Rob Richardson, Sr. ignored the subpoena issued to him to provide testimony to the OEC, the OEC voted to proceed in an action to have Richardson found in contempt.

It has been expensive and time-consuming to pry these facts from those who set out to violate Ohio law on campaign finance and to end the career of a promising politician.

The case continues before the Ohio Elections Commission.  We hope to have a finding that the group and individuals ran an illegal political action committee and a referral to the County Prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against the wrong-doers.







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