Ohio treasurer: SUV from Senate bid used legally
Written by JULIE CARR SMYTH, AP Statehouse Correspondent   
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 06:15

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel said Tuesday that he trusts that his team followed all campaign finance laws regarding a vehicle from his 2012 U.S. Senate bid that was still in use months after the campaign and was involved in a March crash.

"I wasn't involved in the details, as I can recall," Mandel told reporters after a public event in Columbus. "But from everything I know, the campaign people involved followed the letter of the law and followed the spirit of the law, and I think that's what any elected official would expect of their campaign teams."

Mandel lost his high-profile bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in November. Months later in March, the vehicle, a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee purchased with Senate campaign funds, collided with a highway barrier on icy roads on I-75 near Toledo.

Federal campaign finance law prohibited using the vehicle for personal purposes or to campaign for another office, such as treasurer.

Mandel's state treasurer campaign was also prohibited from transferring the federal asset under state law, but would legally have been allowed to purchase it. Instead, the treasurer campaign cut a $1,000 check for rental of the vehicle on June 30 — months after it was totaled in the March accident.

Mandel, a Republican, said Tuesday he doesn't know whether an insurance claim was filed in the accident. No insurance settlement has been reported on filings covering financial activity by the Senate campaign through the end of June.

The Associated Press first reported last week that Mandel had been involved in the March crash as well as an earlier crash in April 2011, neither of which had been made public.

A third accident in July 2012 subsequently uncovered by the AP also involved the Senate campaign's SUV. The campaign described it as a fender-bender involving Mandel's driver after he'd dropped Mandel at home for the night.

Mandel told reporters Tuesday he hasn't been in any other accidents that he can remember.

"None that I can remember," he said, pausing. "None that I can recall."

As treasurer, Mandel chooses not to use state-owned transportation for official business on the premise that it saves taxpayers money.

State officials are legally allowed to use campaign vehicles for official use under Ohio campaign finance law. The practice does serve, however, to leave virtually no paper trail at Mandel's state office of his travel activity and to muddy the distinction between his official and political outings.

Mandel says he informed all the appropriate people about the March crash.

"At the time, I mentioned it to my chief of staff (at the treasurer's office), I mentioned it to my wife, and I mentioned it to the folks on the campaign team," he said.


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