Joe Blystone may have to repay campaign money

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The quick and loose approach of Winchester Canal-area farmer Joe Blystone to collecting donations for his governor’s campaign might have caught up with him.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office advised Blystone that if he does not clean up his books, he may have to repay inappropriate campaign donations.

Among the problems revealed during a routine examination:

  • Blystone’s campaign raised $101,000 in cash donations over $100, which is not allowed under campaign finance laws. If he were to repay the excess, it would total approximately $86,000.
  • Blystone’s campaign reported contributions of $1,100 from companies, which cannot donate to people running for office.
  • Another $132,000 may have to be repaid if the donors were corporations. The list includes contributions from “Blystone” and “Vaugn Industr.” Some of these expenses overlap with those that raised more than $100 in cash.

Blystone’s campaign last brought in $214,000 on hand, so any large refunds could be a blow to its finances. He is challenging Governor Mike DeWine, former US Representative Jim Renacci and former State Representative Ron Hood in the Republican primary, scheduled for May 3.

Ohio Governor’s Race: What to know about GOP candidate Joe Blystone

Blystone’s books have been a mess for months, garnering contributions of $25 or less in “unusual frequency and amount,” according to the journal.

Other issues included unclear or vague expenses, such as “food” and “sleep.” According to the audit, “an expense is listed in the report of ‘#Name? “, dated 10/28/2021, in the amount of $141.57.”

Approximately 126 expenses found did not indicate a purpose. Blystone’s treasurer, who is the candidate’s wife, has until March 31 to respond to the questions raised.

The Ohio secretary of state’s office will work with Blystone, as it does with all candidates, to bring its reports into compliance, LaRose spokesman Rob Nichols said. Otherwise, the campaign could face an investigation by the Ohio Election Commission.

The former Blystone campaign manager has already filed a complaint about Blystone’s finances with the Ohio Election Commission. That review was put on hold after the Blystone campaign filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. The commission asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

Asked about the issues in February, Blystone said his campaign did not intentionally violate Ohio rules.

“Am I saying everything was done effectively and efficiently under Ohio’s revised code? I hope everything is fine, but campaign finance regulations are very complicated,” said Blystone. “If we made a mistake, we’ll fix it. It’s as simple as that, but we didn’t go out and try to defraud campaign finance.”

Blystone campaign manager Bryan Robson said the issues cited were “clerical errors or omissions of required information”.

“We are in the process of rectifying these errors and omissions,” he said.

Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliate news organizations in Ohio.

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