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Jean Schmidt Denies Involvement In Robocalls, Fishy 'Victory Ohio Super PAC'

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The mystery over who ran anonymous robocalls claiming to be from the unregistered Victory Ohio Super PAC continued to linger Friday as a spokesman for Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) denied having anything to do with them.

"No," said Schmidt spokesman Barret Brunsman, when asked whether the campaign played any role in the robocalls.

Those automated voice recordings to Ohio voters may have played a crucial role in the unofficial 59-vote margin of victory for Democratic candidate William Smith, who defeated David Krikorian in the Democratic primary race Tuesday for the 2nd District.

Krikorian and Schmidt previously faced off in the 2008 House race in the district, when the two traded heated allegations over whether Schmidt had denied the Armenian genocide between 1915 and 1918. On Thursday, Krikorian suggested that Schmidt, fearful of facing him in a general election, "may have engineered a robocall at the last minute" to keep him out of the race -- although he added that she might also "have nothing to do with it."

On the Republican side, Schmidt lost her race on Tuesday to physician Brad Wenstrup -- due in part to a separate, officially registered Super PAC called the Campaign for Primary Accountability.

Smith, a truck driver who was a political unknown before the race, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post. Democratic Party leaders in his district said he'd done almost no campaigning before he beat Krikorian.

The Federal Election Commission has no records on file for a group called the Victory Ohio Super PAC, and no one in the district seems to have heard of the organization before.

Candidate Krikorian, however, is steamed by whoever is behind the calls. "This group, I think, has just committed a crime," he said. "How have they not committed a crime? They've not registered." He said the robocalls blanketed the district in the race's final days with thousands of calls, and several people told him the calls were the reason they voted.

Paul Ryan, an expert at the Campaign Legal Center, said there's no law against self-labeling as a "Super PAC" even without registering with the FEC; it is not a legal term. But if the mystery dialers spent more than $1,000 on the robocalls, which seems likely given their reported intensity, their sponsor crossed a line.

"If this group spent more than $1,000 on the robocalls AND distributed more than 500 of such calls, then the group seemingly violated the federal law independent expenditure disclosure requirement," he told HuffPost in an email.

And if the group really were a Super PAC -- an independent expenditure-only political committee, in the FEC's terminology -- then, he said, there would be "no leeway" in disclosing their funders and identity to the FEC.

Krikorian said the mystery PAC "definitely made the difference on election day." (Others point to his controversial comments over an Indian-American opponent's name in 2010). He is considering calling for a federal investigation, something local Democratic officials are encouraging him to do.

He does not believe Smith played a role in the robocalls. If the Victory Ohio Super PAC gets away with affecting his race, he said, that would "make a mockery of our election laws."

Watch the YouTube video below for audio of one of the "Victory Ohio Super PAC" phone calls provided to HuffPost by Krikorian. Know anything about the group? Email reporter Matt Sledge at msledge@huffingtonpost.com.

 
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