By David Skolnick
Campaign finance reports were released Friday for a variety of candidates.
Ex-Attorney General Marc Dann’s campaign committee spent $131,448.76 during the last six months of 2008, about half of it to pay legal fees.
Dann’s committee was busy spending money during the latter half of 2008, but received no contributions, according to a campaign finance report filed Friday with the Ohio secretary of state.
He resigned as attorney general May 14.
The committee spent $60,243.79 on legal fees: $30,057.79 to Donald McTigue, a Columbus attorney who specializes in election law; $25,000 to David Betras, his former law partner, and $5,186 to Ogletree Deakin, a Greenville, S.C., firm that specializes in labor and employment law.
The report notes that half of the money given to Betras was refunded Jan. 8, past the report’s deadline.
Dann, a Democrat, switched attorneys, which prompted the refund, said McTigue, who declined to disclose the name of the new lawyer.
It is legal to spend campaign money on legal fees, McTigue said. The secretary of state’s office has also said the practice is legal.
Dann is accused of violating state campaign laws. The Ohio Elections Commission is to conduct a preliminary review March 5 of the accusations from the secretary of state and the state inspector general.
Also, a Franklin County grand jury is investigating potential criminal acts that occurred in the attorney general’s office during Dann’s administration. There are also other ongoing investigations into questionable activity at the office while Dann served as attorney general from Jan. 1, 2007, until his May 14, 2008, resignation.
Dann resigned under pressure shortly after an internal attorney general investigation described the office under Dann as one filled with cronyism and unprofessional behavior.
Dann still maintains a campaign fund even though he has no immediate plans to run again for office.
“To say that he’s not campaigning isn’t an accurate statement,” McTigue said. “He still meets with campaign supporters. Marc has political connections across the country, and Marc is still a political figure. He still has an active campaign committee. What political office he may seek or not seek in the future is an open question.”
Other big Dann campaign expenditures besides legal fees during the latter half of 2008 were:
U$19,300 in campaign contributions. The Vote Yes on Issue 5 committee, which successfully led the charge to retain a state law that restricts the amount of interest a payday lending business can charge, received $10,000 from Dann’s campaign.
He also gave $2,300 to Jane Mitakides, a failed Democratic congressional candidate; $2,000 to longtime friend William O’Neill, another failed Democratic congressional candidate; $1,000 to Warren Law Director Greg Hicks, another close friend; and $1,000 to Summit County Councilman Frank C. Comunale.
U$13,000 in donations: $10,000 to the Youngstown Jewish Community Federation and $3,000 to Temple El Emeth, both in Liberty, where Dann lives.
U$17,616.10 to GMAC to pay off the cost of an SUV purchased by the campaign.
Dann does very little campaigning so there’s no need to keep the vehicle, McTigue said. Dann’s committee sold the SUV to Ron Haus Auto Group of Canfield for $4,500.
“It’s not a good deal for the campaign” to sell the vehicle for a loss, McTigue said. “It’s not the best time to sell a vehicle, but it was decided to get rid of it because it was hardly used.”
Though the committee received no contributions between July and December 2008, it reported $11,289 in “other income,” including the $4,500 for the campaign’s SUV.
“Other income” also includes $1,549.76 Dann reimbursed to his campaign for previous travel expenses and $1,833.32 his law office paid to the campaign to pay back cell phone services, McTigue said.
The law office, of which Dann is the sole owner, also purchased two computers from the committee for $933.25.
The secretary of state filed a complaint in December against Dann with the elections commission that contended the ex-attorney general’s campaign improperly paid at least $4,369 for cell phones that Dann, his wife and children used for calls not related to the campaign.
Dann’s campaign has eliminated its cell phones, McTigue said.
Though the $1,833.32 is not a full refund on the questionable payments, “we believed it would be best to make the refund now rather than getting into a back and forth with the secretary of state,” McTigue said. “We know the secretary of state’s position on this issue so we said, ‘Let’s move on and let’s try to not get bogged down on these issues and let Marc Dann move on, even though we don’t agree it should be refunded.’”
Previous campaign finance reports filed by Dann were filled with meals, newspapers and travel expenses.
The latest report had significantly less.
There was a $56.69 charge for food and beverages at a Beachwood restaurant, a $19.11 food and beverages charge at a Brookpark restaurant, a $4.78 charge for newspapers at a Liberty gas station, and a $99 charge for a subscription to The Wall Street Journal.