COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Democratic councilwoman from suburban Cincinnati who’s running for Ohio secretary of state has been found to have committed three minor campaign-finance violations, two related to her temporarily having an improper name for her state campaign committee.
The Ohio Elections Commission on Thursday fined Chelsea Clark $500, in part for having an improper committee name, and then in a related issue, having an improper disclosure in a campaign ad.
When Clark initially formed her state campaign committee on July 6, 2021, she called it “Chelsea for Ohio.” Ohio law requires candidates to include their last name in their campaign committees. “Chelsea for Ohio” then appeared in one of Clark’s campaign videos, even after she changed her name to “Chelsea Clark for Ohio” on July 7, 2021.
The commission also dinged Clark for accepting a $2,500 check from a donor dated July 1, 2021, before her campaign committee had been officially formed.
Clark is challenging Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose in November’s election.
Phil Richter, director of the Ohio Elections Commission, said a factor in setting the $500 fine was that Clark had been fined $250 previously by the commission for filing late campaign-finance reports for her local campaign committee in Forest Park in suburban Cincinnati.
A lawyer for Clark said the violations were unintentional mistakes that were quickly corrected.
The elections commission made its finding in response to a complaint from Trevor Knapp, of Pickerington.
The secretary of state is Ohio’s top elections official, and is in part responsible for accepting and reviewing campaign-finance reports, while the elections commission is responsible for enforcing state campaign-finance law.
After Clark was fined, LaRose’s campaign issued a statement criticizing her.
“It’s understandable that candidates and campaigns make mistakes, but Chelsea Clark is a chronic offender of state election laws,” said Adam Rapien, LaRose’s campaign manager.
In response, Clark said in an email that LaRose is trying to distract from the failures of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, of which LaRose is a member. Legal issues involving the commission have cost taxpayers millions of dollars, including in legal fees, while delays in approving a new state legislative map could cost an estimated $20 million, the cost of holding a second primary election only for those races.
“This is the kind of politics that Ohioans are so sick of,” Clark said.