The $50,000 loan Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor said he made to his campaign wasn’t a loan after all.
Instead – because Pastor used his own money to buy things for the campaign as needed – that money is considered an in-kind contribution to himself. And that means he cannot pay himself back that money, as candidates sometimes do when they loan their campaign money.
That’s the biggest revelation in the amended 2017 campaign finance reports Pastor filed Friday afternoon after requesting two previous extensions to make corrections. The Enquirer obtained the reports from the Hamilton County Board of Elections via a public records request.
In a statement, Pastor said: “As a first-time candidate for City Council, I relied on college students and other volunteers to complete my campaign finance filings. I didn’t have anyone else to do it, and I was appreciative of their help. It’s now clear that much of the paperwork was incomplete and didn’t contain everything it should have.
“I take responsibility for that mistake, and I’ve worked hard over the past few weeks to have all the paperwork filed appropriately,” he said. “We are still tracking down a handful of missing items, but these amended reports provide the information required by Ohio law.”
Pastor hired the Graydon law firm and an accounting firm to help him sort through the records, he said in the statement.
Since Pastor won the ninth seat on council by a narrow 223-vote margin in November, questions have arisen about how Pastor raised and spent his campaign money. Pastor has declined to answer Enquirer questions about his campaign finances.
Campaign finance reports were due to the Board of Elections in December. Mistakes are common, although Pastor was the only winning member of council who did not disclose all campaign expenditures. The Board of Elections oversees the filings and asked Pastor to file amended campaign finance reports that are in compliance with state and local laws.
Last month, Pastor designated himself as his own treasurer, an unusual move. Typically candidates ask bookkeeping experts or trusted advisers as treasurer so the candidates limit their liability for non-compliance.
Pastor amended three reports, which cover Jan. 1, 2017, through the end of the year. In that time he raised $57,688, plus he gave his campaign the $50,000, the reports show.
Board of Elections Director Sherry Poland has not yet said whether the reports are now sufficient. The board could ask for specific additional amendments or could refer the matter to the Ohio Elections Commission.
Overall the reports show a free-spending campaign, run mostly by volunteers who ran up food tabs on a campaign credit card and shuttled all over town via Ubers, with no real campaign manager at the helm.
The reports don’t mention Pastor’s boss at the Charles L. Shor Foundation for Epilepsy Research, wealthy businessman Charlie Shor. Shor loaned Pastor $500,000 to buy a home in North Avondale and also an additional $50,000, according to Hamilton County Recorder’s Office records.
If Shor lent Pastor the money for his campaign, Pastor would have needed to disclose that on campaign finance reports. By law, contributors outside a candidate’s family can donate up to $1,100.
Nor do the reports show exactly what Pastor did with the $50,000 he gave his campaign. The in-kind donation form filed as part of the amended report says the money was for campaign advertising/media buys. But there are no specific details. For instance, just before the election Pastor’s campaign put up billboards all over town featuring him in his dress U.S. Navy uniform, but the amended reports don’t include a record of what they cost.
However, the report does now detail some expenses, including:
- Pastor spent $3,776 on meals for volunteers, including $488 at The Boat House in July of 2017 and $1,000 at Kaze, the night of the election. He spent another $373 at Kaze on Nov. 17. But there are dozens of small expenses for places like Wendy’s, First Watch and Pizza Hut.
- Pastor didn’t have a consistent campaign manager. In June of 2017, he paid Jaasiel Chapman $2,600. But later it’s Tracy Gragston who seems to take on that role, paid $5,700 for campaign work.
- Pastor paid James Hogan $800 on Oct. 14. Hogan was Pastor’s third campaign treasurer, the last one before Pastor designated himself treasurer. Typically treasurers in council races are not paid.
- There’s an unexplained expense of $1,036 on Oct. 30, which is shown in the report as “miscellaneous.”
- Pastor’s high-profile move of busing voters to the polls – something not typically done in council races – cost $820.
Beyond the unusual handling of campaign finances, Pastor’s run for City Council was also notable for the rare appearance of dark money – spending by an outside group that doesn’t have to detail its contributors – in a local race.
“Dark money’ is finding its way into federal, state and local campaign. Critics say this means the public can’t know who helped elect a politician
Mark Wert, firstname.lastname@example.org
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