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Vance changes tune in accepting corporate PAC money

J.D. Vance, a Republican running for an open U.S. Senate seat in Ohio, speaks to reporters following a debate with other Republicans at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, Monday, March 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

J.D. Vance, the Republican Senate nominee who said in January that he wouldn’t take corporate political action committee money, accepted more than $40,000 from those entities in the second quarter while focusing fundraising efforts on retiring his primary election debt.

The decisions highlight Vance’s financial challenges in the Senate race with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, his Democratic opponent, despite emerging as the winner of a bitter Republican primary and seen as the favorite candidate in a GOP-controlled state.

When asked Jan. 6 by Steve Bannon on his “War Room” podcast if he took any corporate PAC money, Vance said: “Not yet, and we haven’t. We haven’t taken any yet.” A couple of seconds later he told Bannon: “Sorry, I’m not going to take corporate PAC money.”

But with Vance’s various campaign committees raising considerably less than Ryan, the Republican nominee has changed his tune.

His Senate campaign finance reports for April to June show he raised more than $40,000 from corporate PACs including $5,000 contributions from Marathon Petroleum Corp. Employees PAC, Nextera Energy PAC, Philips 66 PAC, Rock Holdings Inc. PAC and KochPAC. He accepted lesser amounts of $1,000 to $2,500 from the PACs of Exxon Mobil Corp., Transcanada USA Services, Bread Financial Holdings, Continental Resources and Strategic Public Partners.

Also, with Vance’s Senate campaign and Ohioans for J.D., a joint fundraising committee with his leadership PAC, showing it owes almost as much as it has in surplus, Vance’s main financial focus is on retiring his primary election debt with raising money for the Nov. 8 general election being secondary.

Vance’s committees raised $2,371,538 between April and June compared with $9,133,487 for Ryan.

Vance’s Senate campaign would have had a deficit if not for $700,000 he gave it while Ohioans for J.D. would have only a $91,626 surplus as of June 30 if it paid the outstanding debt it owes.

Not including Vance’s loan, the Senate fund owed $182,884 and Ohioans for J.D. owed $201,147.

Ohioans for J.D. transferred about $170,000 in the second quarter to his Senate fund to retire other campaign debt.

As of June 30, he hadn’t repaid any of the $700,000 in loans he’s given his Senate fund.

Asked to comment, Taylor Van Kirk, Vance’s campaign spokeswoman, said Ryan has accepted millions of dollars from corporate PACs as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists and teachers unions.

“Our campaign will use all tools at our disposal to defeat Tim Ryan,” she said. “The stakes are too high to allow a rubber stamp radical like” Ryan to “trick the people of Ohio into giving him a seat in the Senate.”

She didn’t address why the campaign’s financial focus has been on retiring the primary election debt.

Ryan has never said in this campaign that he wouldn’t take corporate PAC money.

Izzi Levy, Ryan’s campaign spokeswoman, said: “J.D. Vance is yet again flip flopping on another position in a frantic play to shore up his struggling campaign that is in debt. It’s a sign of desperation. Their political instincts haven’t been strong. He’s spent two months hiding from voters so far.”

Michael Beyer, an Ohio Democratic Party spokesman, said: “J.D. Vance all too eagerly broke his promise not to accept corporate PAC money because he can’t find enough Ohioans to support his uninspiring campaign because they know he is a fraud who will do or say anything to get elected.”

Vance’s campaign fundraising lagged behind four other Republican candidates in the party’s Senate primary that he won. Two of those candidates — Mike Gibbons and Matt Dolan — ran campaigns they largely self-funded.

Vance benefited from the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and Protect Ohio Values, a super PAC that spent millions of dollars to support his campaign.

The contribution link on Vance’s campaign website seeks money for Vance Victory — a joint fundraising committee created June 3 with his Senate campaign, the Ohio Republican Party and Working for Ohio, Vance’s leadership PAC.

It states the first $2,900 of any contribution is “designated for 2022 primary election debt retirement” for his Senate fund.

The next $2,900 is “designated for the general election” for the Senate fund, the next $10,000 toward the ORP and the final $5,000 for Working for Ohio.

The same financial division with the primary debt prioritized was on an invitation to a June 28 fundraiser in Cincinnati with a $20,800 maximum ticket and a $5,800 minimum ticket as well as an invitation to a July 12 Zoom fundraiser with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, with no ticket amounts listed.

That same financial breakdown is on a Monday fundraiser invitation in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a former NRSC chairman, with tickets ranging from $500 to $5,000.

Vance for Senate reported having $628,611 in its fund as of June 30 with $882,884 in outstanding debt. Of that debt, $700,000 is loans Vance gave to the fund.

Ohioans for J.D. had a $292,773 surplus as of June 30, but had $201,147 in outstanding debt to three vendors for fundraising and direct mail.

Between the two funds, it owed $162,647 more than it had as of June 30. If repayment of Vance’s loan isn’t included, the funds had a combined $537,353 surplus.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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