By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer still leads the pack of 17th Congressional District candidates in terms of money in the bank, but state Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr. is closing the gap.
Before April 1, Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, had $161,422 in his campaign war chest compared with $2,895 for Latell, a Girard Democrat. But between that date and April 17, Latell outraised Sawyer $86,425 to $37,060. Also, Sawyer spent $119,358 during those 17 days compared with $38,614 for Latell.
But the raw numbers on the candidates' pre-primary campaign finance reports don't tell the whole story.
Of the money Latell raised, $61,000 came from loans he gave to his campaign. The rest, $25,425, came from individual donors, including $1,000 contributions from mall developer Anthony M. Cafaro; Cafaro's wife, Phyllis; and Thomas Fok, owner of Thomas Fok and Associates. Latell received no money from political action committees. Latell has loaned $75,581 to his campaign this year.
Sawyer has loaned no money to his campaign. He raised $13,500 from PACs April 1-17, and $226,405 from PACs since the beginning of the year. Of the $23,560 he raised from individual donors April 1-17, only one, Deborah L. Walter of Boardman, who gave him $1,000, is a Valley resident. Also, no other Valley resident has given any money to Sawyer so far this year.
Of the $119,358 Sawyer spent April 1-17, $78,369 went to Burges and Burges, a Cleveland-based political consulting firm, which used the money for media buys. As of April 17, Sawyer has paid $127,974 to Burges and Burges, all but $5,000 of it for media buys. The remaining $5,000 is a consulting fee.
Of the $38,614 Latell spent during those 17 days, $27,005 went to Rubenstein and Associates, a Liberty company, which used the money for media buys.
State Sen. Timothy Ryan, a Niles Democrat also running for the 17th District seat, raised $11,720 April 1-17: $5,800 from PACs and the rest from individuals. He also spent $41,526 in those 17 days, including $14,893 to Two Ticks and a Dog, a Warren company, for media buys.
Funds from group
The Mahoning County Democratic Party, which is not endorsing a congressional candidate, gave $2,500 to Ryan. Democratic Chairman David Ditzler, who supports Sawyer, said the money didn't actually come from the party. The Western Reserve Building and Construction Trade Council, which supports Ryan, gave $2,750 to the party and asked that $2,500 go to Ryan, Ditzler said.
"It's legal to do it," said Ditzler, who said the trade council essentially funneled money to Ryan through the party. "Labor unions and associations give us money and ask that we honor their request to contribute to particular candidates. We usually keep 10 percent. It's been done before numerous times. There are limits on the amount of money PACs can give to a candidate so they use us to donate more."
There are numerous errors on the summary pages of Ryan's financial disclosure report. Ryan is required to file his expenses for the time frame of the pre-primary report, April 1-17, in one column and his expenses to date in another column. In nearly every category, Ryan incorrectly filed his expenses to date, using the amount he raised April 1-17 in that column.
Also, Ryan listed no loans in the summary pages of his report, even though he took out a $50,000 loan, co-signed by a friend, and has since paid back $25,000 of it.
State Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora, the lone Republican in the 17th District race, raised $20,550 from April 1-17. Of that amount, $12,800 came from individuals, including $1,000 each from Gov. Bob Taft and Mahoning GOP Chairman Clarence Smith, her lone Mahoning Valley donor. Womer Benjamin had no expenses during the 17 days.
The new 17th District includes portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage and Summit counties.
In the 6th District, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, is the only candidate to file a pre-primary report.
Strickland raised $10,006 from April 1-17, including $6,675 from individuals and $3,300 from PACs. No Valley residents contributed to Strickland's campaign. Strickland has $586,646 in his campaign fund.
The new 12-county 6th District includes all of Columbiana County and Mahoning County except its northeast portion.