Did the creator of the LoveGenoa website act as an individual or as political action committee (PAC) was the question the Delaware County Board of Elections faced Tuesday.
A complaint filed with the board Dec. 29, 2017 on behalf of Gebhardt for Good Government, contends that the website LoveGenoa made a public endorsement by advocating for Renee Vaughan and Mark Harmon during the Genoa Township trustees race in the November 2017 general election, but did not provide the required disclaimer on the political communication.
The board of elections contracts with Samuel L. Kindred, owner SCS Consulting Services, LTD to investigate election issues that are brought before the board.
“Operationally, I would say that they operate as a PAC,” he said to the board about his investigation into the matter. “However, structurally they didn’t meet the requirements of the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) as a PAC. In other words, there must be two or more people who advocate for or against a candidate or ballot issue, make distributions from or to an account.”
Kindred said LoveGenoa started out as a Facebook page, which is still live, but during the campaign it “morphed into the website LoveGenoa.” He said the website was a group concerned about Genoa Township and the direction that development was taking in the township. The website has since been removed.
Kindred emphasized ORC’s only requirement for a PAC is two or more people involved.
“There is nothing in the ORC about Facebook followers or email addresses, contacts or Twitter accounts or whatever,” he said. “Nothing is in there about the modern way to communicate. My conclusion was they are not a PAC.”
Kindred said the page is maintained by one person as far as he could determine. He said in his estimate a single person with a Facebook page was not a PAC.
“It is the one individual who has a website, a Facebook page with followers, but there’s no entity as a unit of individuals that have meetings, a bank account to disburse funds from or into,” he said.
Kindred said the next question was were there political campaign communications distributed on the behalf of candidates.
“Do or did members of LoveGenoa pay contributions of any kind to be part of the group?” Kindred asked.
Kindred said he was told there were no contributions and that the list of members was just part of an email list.
BOE member Steve Cuckler said it appeared as if LoveGenoa did produce a questionnaire that was distributed to candidates to allow them the chance to state their position on issues.
“If it’s just this guy in his basement running this then that’s technically less than two or more people,” said Cuckler. “The question I have is, is it really just him? Is it truly just him deciding which questions to ask? Is it truly just him saying, ‘this is who we’re going to endorse’ or is there a collection of people who are really working with him?”
“In that case, it would be a PAC because it would be two or more persons,” Cuckler said.
Cuckler said since the board didn’t have all the facts, the board could refer the issue to the Ohio Elections Commission.
A motion was made and the board voted unanimously to send the matter to the commission.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.