NEW: Frank LaRose Caught Campaigning At Taxpayer Funded Office Amid Growing Scandal
October 5, 2023
Questions “Intensify” As Frank LaRose Potentially Violates Ohio Ethics Code By Campaigning on Ohioans’ Dime
Columbus, OH – After dodging questions for weeks, a new report from the Ohio Capital Journal shows that Frank LaRose last week “recorded a campaign interview that appeared to take place in the building where he is moving his taxpayer-funded state offices.” In addition to costing taxpayers $600,000 – which will take 54 years to recoup – the report shows LaRose may have violated Ohio Ethics code by soliciting a campaign contribution from a taxpayer-funded building.
As Frank LaRose’s latest scandal grows, he continues to face “intensifying” questions after “blurring ethical lines” and deciding to put his political ambitions ahead of Ohioans. Ethics experts are now joining Ohioans, media outlets, and lawmakers in questioning LaRose’s decision and motives:
Mia Lewis of Common Cause Ohio: “You have to keep the campaign and the government work separate. Once those things start to blur, it becomes harder and harder for voters to trust their elected officials… [LaRose] seems to spend an incredible amount of his time putting his thumb on the scale of one issue or another…How are Ohioans supposed to trust you when you have so much trouble putting the voters first?”
“Frank LaRose’s latest scandal is growing and Ohio taxpayers are footing the bill for his scheme to move the Secretary of State office to the same building as his campaign,” said ODP Spokesperson Reeves Oyster. “Ohioans aren’t buying LaRose’s excuses or his phony math as it becomes clearer every day that LaRose will do whatever it takes to advance his political career, regardless of how much it hurts – or costs – Ohioans.”
Ohio Capital Journal: Even before office move is complete, Ohio Sec. of State LaRose appears to blur ethical lines
October 5, 2023
- Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose last week recorded a campaign interview that appeared to take place in the building where he is moving his taxpayer-funded state offices. LaRose didn’t respond to questions, but the backdrop of the interview seemed to preclude the possibility that it was set in any other building.
- But with LaRose saying that he doesn’t have a headquarters for his U.S. Senate campaign, the interview intensifies questions about whether he plans to seek office out of the same tax-funded space from which he’ll run the election, or from one a few floors away.
- LaRose hasn’t responded to repeated questions from the Capital Journal about the move.
- But it would be improper for him to engage in campaign activities in the downtown Columbus building, said Mia Lewis of Common Cause Ohio, because it’s vital to keep the work of running a fair election walled off from that of trying to win one. “You have to keep the campaign and the government work separate,” she said. “Once those things start to blur, it becomes harder and harder for voters to trust their elected officials.”
- The situation has already raised questions about appearances and propriety.
- LaRose is the state’s top elections administrator at the same time that he seeks one of the state’s top political prizes — a seat in the U.S. Senate. Last month, WCMH Channel 4 reported that LaRose was moving the secretary of state’s office into the same building he registered with the Federal Election Commission for his Senate Campaign.
- LaRose’s campaign lawyers are with the firm BakerHostetler and are located at the top of the building, which is along the scenic Scioto Mile at 200 Civic Center Drive. Meanwhile, the secretary of state’s office will be several floors below when the move is completed as soon as next month.
- Ethics experts said that co-locating the two could at least give the appearance of impropriety, and could at worst tempt LaRose and his staff to campaign for the Senate using taxpayer resources meant to ensure free and fair elections.
- That ignores the $600,000 the move is expected to cost. The rental savings won’t cover that until 2077.
- More significantly, LaRose and his team haven’t responded when asked repeatedly if he’s participated in interviews or other campaign activities in the building — a question that becomes even more pertinent if LaRose doesn’t have a campaign office.
- Then LaRose — who touts his commitment to election integrity — made yet another bid for the endorsement of Trump, who last December called to “terminate” the U.S. Constitution so he could steal a presidential election that he lost in 2020.
- If that bit of politicking wasn’t clear enough, Bannon’s show then displayed a full-screen image of LaRose’s campaign webpage, with its red “DONATE” button at the top left.
- Depending on where LaRose recorded the interview, that action might violate Section 3517.092 of the Ohio Revised Code, which says, “No public employee shall solicit a contribution from any person while the public employee is performing the public employee’s official duties or in those areas of a public building where official business is transacted or conducted.”
- Lewis, of Common Cause, said the fact that it’s even plausible that LaRose might have recorded his interview with Bannon from state-leased space is reason enough to house the state’s election administrator in a building separate from one in which LaRose’s campaign is registered.
- “Good fences make good neighbors,” she said. “You put up barriers to make sure nobody is tempted to take that shortcut. If your office as secretary of state is downtown and you have to drive somewhere else in order to do your campaign work, well there’s a reason for that. That’s to try to make sure you’re not cutting those corners. How easy it’s going to be and how tempting it’s going to be to cut those corners when the office is just upstairs or just downstairs.”
- Even before the office controversy, LaRose had been criticized as being highly political while simultaneously being responsible for neutrally administering Ohio elections.
- Among his controversies, LaRose was a member of a Republican-dominated redistricting commission that ignored seven orders from the Ohio Supreme Court to draw legislative and congressional districts that weren’t so gerrymandered; he led a misleading campaign to make it much harder for voters to initiate amendments to the state Constitution, and he led the Ohio Ballot Board in writing language describing a proposed abortion-rights amendment in loaded ways such as changing the word “fetus” to “unborn child.”
- “This man is our secretary of state,” Lewis said. “He’s supposed to be in charge of elections in Ohio. And yet he seems to spend an incredible amount of his time putting his thumb on the scale of one issue or another — openly campaigning for one result or another.”
- She added, “Now he’s running for office himself and the fact that he doesn’t see that it is unseemly at the very least to be operating as secretary of state while in the same building you’re running your campaign for Senate at the same time. How are Ohioans supposed to trust you when you have so much trouble putting the voters first?”
See also: Frank LaRose’s “Latest Political Controversy” Escalates, Ohioans Agree LaRose Misusing Taxpayer Funds; Frank LaRose Continues Dodging Questions From Ohioans, Media, and Lawmakers on Latest Scandal; Ohio Lawmakers Call On Frank LaRose To Answer for Latest Scandal Costing Ohioans; Frank LaRose’s “Latest Unethical Move Is a Bit More Literal”; ICYMI: “Ethics Red Flags” Go Up as Frank LaRose’s “Ability to Do that Job Impartially Has Been Called into Question” [Ohio Capital Journal]; LaRose’s Math Not Adding Up as Taxpayers Cover Steep Cost to Move Secretary of State Office to His Campaign HQ; As Scandal Grows, LaRose’s “Answers” Just Raise More Questions About Steep Cost to Move Secretary of State Office to His Campaign HQ; Frank LaRose Still Owes Ohioans Answers After Latest Scandal Surfaces; A New Scandal For Frank LaRose: Taxpayers Foot Steep Bill to Move Secretary of State Office to Campaign HQ