U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot's reelection campaign spent more than $57,000 with two companies run by former campaign staffer Jamie Schwartz in July and August — just before Schwartz shuttered those consultancy groups and left the campaign amid questions about missing campaign money.
According to a third-quarter campaign finance report filed with the Federal Elections Commission on Oct. 15 and first reported by Cleveland.com, the purpose of the money paid to Schwartz's Fountain Square Group and Prime Media is "unknown."
"Due to an internal audit after the discovery of misappropriated funds, the beginning cash on hand is an estimate based upon the information the committee has at the time of this filing," a memo from the campaign included with the FEC filing reads. "The cash adjustments may change in the future depending on additional information that may present itself. Additionally, a number of disbursements list the purpose as unknown. The purpose of those cannot be determined until the completion of the investigation of the former Treasurer."
It's the latest development in the saga around more than $123,000 missing from Chabot's campaign, which first came to light when the FEC flagged discrepancies in the campaign's earlier financial filings this summer.
Schwartz, who has served as Chabot's campaign manager and in his congressional office, shuttered the two consultancies and effectively disappeared. His father, Jim Schwartz, had been listed as the Chabot campaign's treasurer for years. But the elder Schwartz issued a statement last month saying he had no idea he was named on FEC forms as treasurer for the campaign.
“I am not now, nor have I ever been, the treasurer of the Steve Chabot for Congress campaign,” the Sept. 9 statement from Schwartz attorney Daniel J. McCarthy reads. “I have never served the campaign in any official capacity, including as treasurer, at any time. I played no role in the campaign other than as an occasional volunteer. I had no knowledge of the use of my name on any campaign documents or filings until recent reports.”
Mark Braden, an attorney for Chabot's campaign, early last month said it appeared as though the campaign had been the victim of "financial malfeasance."
"Unfortunately, the misappropriation of funds by some campaign treasurers has been far too common an occurrence over the years," he said.
Braden said in the statement that the campaign is cooperating with a federal investigation into the missing money and is conducting an audit of the campaign's finances.
Chabot, serving his 12th term in Congress, handily beat Democratic challenger Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval last year, netting 51 percent of the vote in a district that includes both blueing Hamilton County and deep-red Warren County. One of the more dramatic issues in that campaign hinged on questions around Pureval's use of money from his Clerk of Courts campaign account for his congressional run. The Ohio Elections Commission eventually dropped most of the charges against Pureval, who was fined $100 for paying a photographer who captured his congressional bid announcement from his Clerk of Courts campaign account.
Two Democrats — former military pilot Nikki Foster and health care executive Kate Schroder — are vying to challenge Chabot in 2020.
Chabot raised about $420,000 last quarter for the race — about half of it from political action committees mostly affiliated with other Republicans.