Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) may have violated federal campaign finance law for using a car owned by his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign during his state campaign and for not paying the car's rental fees on time.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Mandel's United States Senate campaign purchased a used Jeep in 2012 during his unsuccessful run against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). Mandel then used the car in 2013 for in-state trips related to his official duties and his 2014 reelection campaign, the report said. Federal law, however, prohibits vehicles from being transferred for free from one campaign to another. Instead, they must be sold or rented.
Mandel's 2014 state reelection campaign did not pay rent on the car in a timely fashion, the AP reported. Federal law requires the rent on vehicles used for political campaigns to be paid within 60 days of use. The Jeep was totaled in a March 5 accident, but the AP reported that the check from Mandel's state campaign to his Senate campaign did not clear until June 30.
The accident occurred when a campaign aide lost control of the car and slammed into a highway median while driving Mandel to Toledo in icy conditions, the AP reported. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Mandel suffered from sore ribs following the crash.
Mandel does not use a state car, a spokeswoman told the AP.
Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel with the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, told The Huffington Post that the Federal Election Commission has consistently mandated that vehicles owned or leased by federal campaigns can only be used for trips related to those campaigns, unless the campaign is reimbursed.
Ryan said that while a complaint could be filed, the FEC would not be likely to pursue sanctions since commissioners rarely take up such complaints, including one the CLC filed in 2012 against former Rep. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) for Towns' wife's alleged private use of a campaign car.
It's unusual that the car wasn't sold after his loss to Brown last year, said Ryan. "It does strike me as odd that a vehicle owned by the federal campaign committee will still be owned by the federal campaign committee unless it was clear that the individual was running for federal office again."
The car issues come as Mandel heads into a tough reelection campaign against state Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery). A recent Public Policy Poll showed Pillich leading 40 percent to 35 percent. The poll also indicated that Mandel has a 41 percent disapproval rating versus a 30 percent approval rating.
An Ohio Democratic Party spokesman declined to comment on Mandel to HuffPost.
Tuesday's report is the latest in a series of negative headlines for Mandel. During the Senate race, Mandel was plagued by reports that showed he did not attend over a year's worth of meetings of the state Board of Deposit, which he chairs, and that he awarded high paying state jobs to political aides.