U.S. House of Representatives
Questions are swirling around irregularities in campaign finance reports from the campaign of U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, who represents the west side of Hamilton County and all of Warren County.
The Federal Elections Commission Aug. 27 sent James Schwartz, the campaign treasurer of the long-tenured Republican, a letter raising questions about $123,625 that appeared on an amended campaign report but did not appear on the campaign's original report.
In the aftermath of that letter, Fountain Square Group, a campaign strategy firm run by Schwartz's son Jamie Schwartz, abruptly deleted Its Facebook page. The younger Schwartz has been a longtime campaign aide for Chabot and Fountain Square Group has a number of contracts with other local Republican campaigns, including Hamilton County Commission candidate Andy Black.
Mark Braden, an attorney for Chabot's campaign, said in a statement that Chabot is the victim of "financial malfeasance."
"Congressman Chabot was shocked and deeply disappointed to be informed yesterday afternoon that his campaign committee may be the victim of financial malfeasance and misappropriation of funds," the statement reads. "Unfortunately, the misappropriation of funds by some campaign treasurers has been far too common an occurrence over the years."
Braden said in the statement that the campaign is cooperating with an investigation into the missing money and is conducting an audit of the campaign's finances. He said the campaign will be making no further comment in the meantime.
Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou echoed the campaign's explanation.
"It appears that Steve Chabot, like millions of Americans and even other members of Congress, has been victimized in a possible financial crime," Triantafilou tweeted Sept. 4. "This unfortunate and shocking development will never deter Congressman Chabot and Republicans from advancing our important agenda."
Chabot, serving his 12th term in Congress, handily beat Democratic challenger Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval last year, netting 51 percent of the vote in a district that includes both blueing Hamilton County and deep-red Warren County. One of the more dramatic issues in that campaign hinged on questions around Pureval's use of money from his Clerk of Courts campaign account for his congressional run. The Ohio Elections Commission eventually dropped most of the charges against Pureval, who was fined $100 for paying a photographer who captured his congressional bid announcement from his Clerk of Courts campaign account.
Two Democrats — former military pilot Nikki Foster and health care executive Kate Schroder — are vying to challenge Chabot in 2020. Foster Sept. 4 called on Chabot to resign via a Twitter post.
The Ohio Democratic Party will hold a news conference today about the investigation into Chabot's campaign finances.