A second allegation of political misconduct is dead on arrival in Ohio’s contentious race for the 37th House district, which covers northeast Summit County.
Earlier this year, Democrats accused Beth Bigham, a Republican councilwoman from Hudson, of failing to report her political donors last year. The office of the Ohio Secretary of State said Bigham was given a waiver to postpone the annual filing. Democrats publicly admonished Bigham but never formally asked the state for an investigation.
County GOP Chairman Bryan Williams returned fire June 19, calling it "extraordinarily rich" that incumbent Rep. Casey Weinstein, a Democrat, would fail to list a company on his financial disclosure statements, which detail the personal business interests of elected officials.
But like the complaint against Bigham, the state has found no reason to investigate the allegation against Weinstein.
The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee that received Williams’ complaint will take "no further action." The company Republicans think Weinstein is hiding does’t exist and — for all practical purposes — it never did, according to emails sent from JLEC to an attorney for Democrats in the House.
The exchange of unfounded attacks based on internet research illustrates how Republicans are setting their cross hairs on Weinstein, one of the few Democrats to flip a seat in 2018, and how Democrats are ready to fight for the ground they’ve gained. With neither candidate challenged in the primary last month, Weinstein raised $5 for every $1 his opponent collected. He began June with $117,879 to Bigham’s $41,282.
The competitive district is a regular target for dubious political attacks — not by candidates, but by state and local parties operatives who seek out filing irregularities or election law technicalities. State and local party chiefs have challenged the very candidacies of Weinstein and others in the House seat that covers Stow, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Twinsburg and other communities.
After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Weinstein considered founding a consultancy that would help local businesses work with the U.S. Department of Defense to reinvest in Dayton’s Wright Patterson AFB where he was stationed.
He filed the paperwork in 2009 for Impressions Consulting, LLC. He was the statutory agent, or person of record, and not an officer in the company, which would require financial disclosure.
In any event, the venture never advanced. Not a single dollar passed through the company before Weinstein said he filed with the IRS to end it in less than a year. The Ohio Secretary of State’s office said there’s no record of Weinstein filing paperwork to terminate the company at the state level.
The company remains listed as active in the state’s online database of businesses. That caught the attention of Summit County GOP Executive Director Lance Reed, who checked but could not find the company on Weinstein’s financial disclosure statements, which were filed twice in his first two-year term and once as a candidate in 2017.
Republicans assumed that Weinstein "knowingly" filed a false statement. They never called Weinstein’s office to ask. Reed said he "went straight to JLEC," which said in an email Monday that "no further action is required" in the matter.
"As a veteran and an elected official, I take the trust my constituents place in me seriously," said Weinstein. "So, I am incredibly disappointed that the Summit County Republican Party didn't do their homework here, and instead attempted to smear me with a lie."
Reed wouldn’t say he was satisfied with JLEC’s determination. He said Weinstein should have terminated the inactive company with the state.
Reach Beacon Journal reporter Doug Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3792.