Judge gets benefit of a loophole

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 3

COLUMBUS — Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wants to close the legal loophole that let Republican candidates shuffle more than $100,000 worth of television air time among themselves last week.

But until it’s closed, he’s happy to take advantage of it.

Mr. Moyer is one of two statewide candidates who benefited when Attorney General Betty Montgomery gave $85,000 of TV air time to the Ohio Republican Party. The party turned around and gave $15,000 of it to Mr. Moyer for his campaign, as well as $35,000 to treasurer nominee Joe Deters.

The campaign of Auditor Jim Petro gave $25,000 of air time to the GOP for distribution to other candidates, including Mr. Deters. Mr. Petro and Ms. Montgomery are well ahead in the polls.

Normally, a campaign can give only $2,500 to another campaign. But using the GOP as a middleman enabled Ms. Montgomery’s and Mr. Petro’s campaign money to aid candidates in tighter races.

“That’s a loophole that needs closing,” said Ryan Erwin, the Moyer campaign finance director, who said he was speaking for the chief justice. “That’s not the way that the law was intended. But we’ll take the money.”

The $15,000 infusion from the GOP last week followed a $100,000 donation to the Moyer campaign from the state party this month. Both donations were made after the deadline when donations must be disclosed before Tuesday’s election.

Mr. Moyer’s opponent, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Gary Tyack, said the donation shows the party leadership is concerned about the incumbent’s chances.

“Obviously, they’re worried about this race,” he said. “I think it’s hypocritical for him to be running ads saying he’s fought to take the big money out of judicial elections and to be taking all this money after the campaign finance filing deadline.”

Mr. Erwin said the campaign’s internal polling shows Mr. Moyer with a comfortable lead of 18 points.

A Louis Harris poll sponsored by The Blade indicated 56 per cent supporting Mr. Moyer and only 18 per cent supporting Mr. Tyack.