July 28, 2014

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Updated: Josh Mandel fails to report two traffic accidents

Josh Mandel (AP photo)

Josh Mandel (AP photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Republican Josh Mandel has kept two traffic accidents quiet since becoming Ohio treasurer in 2011 — including one that raises a potential violation of federal campaign finance law.

Law enforcement reports obtained by The Associated Press show one crash in March near Toledo and one in April 2011 in downtown Columbus.

During the late-night March accident, Mandel was riding in a vehicle owned by his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign, months after he’d lost his high-profile bid against Democrat Sherrod Brown.

Under federal campaign finance law, Senate campaign property can’t be used for personal use or to campaign for a different office, such as treasurer.

Mandel’s state treasurer campaign says it rented the vehicle from the federal campaign. The rental check cleared June 30, more than seven months after Mandel had lost the Senate race and almost four months after the accident, which totaled the vehicle.

Federal campaign rules generally require rental checks for transportation to be paid no more than 60 days after the travel takes place. Mandel’s political team says both state and federal campaign finance lawyers were consulted on the rental arrangement.

As treasurer, Mandel has opted not to use state-owned transportation for official business on the premise that it saves taxpayers money. The practice, while legal, allows him to leave virtually no paper trail at his state office of his travel activity.

Campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Wasserstein said the practice is fiscally responsible.

“While many public officials use tax dollars to travel around the state, Treasurer Mandel is saving Ohioans thousands of dollars by not using a penny of taxpayer money,” she said. “This is yet another example of Josh Mandel walking the walk as a fiscal conservative and leader with integrity.”

The practice meant Mandel would have had to take extra steps to inform his state office that he was involved in the two wrecks, and in one case sustained minor injuries. An AP public records request for associated documents turned up no existing records.

Wasserstein said Mandel informed his chief of staff of both crashes but did not make a formal report because neither accident involved official business.

The 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee owned by Mandel’s Senate campaign was totaled on March 5 after his driver, 29-year-old Brian Pochitila, spun out, lost control and struck a concrete wall after hitting a patch of ice at about 11 p.m., according to the State Highway Patrol accident report.

In the earlier accident, Mandel was being driven by Jacob Dummermuth, then a 21-year-old Senate campaign intern, when their vehicle collided with another in a downtown Columbus intersection near Mandel’s state offices at about 3 p.m. on April 26, 2011. Dummermuth was driving a Ford Explorer owned by his father, according to the Columbus police report.

At the time, Mandel had been Ohio’s state treasurer for a little more than three months. He had not yet announced his plan to run for the Senate.

Using campaign accounts to pay for official state trips is legally allowed, but it can raise transparency issues for public officials. Most make known any traffic accidents they’re involved in — such as a four-vehicle accident in April involving Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Those driving state vehicles are required to report accidents immediately.

Wasserstein said Mandel had a political event in Toledo on March 6 and traveled up the night before in hopes of beating a snowstorm. His official calendar for April 26, 2011, shows Mandel was due at a videotaping at the Statehouse to promote his Center for Public Investment Management on the afternoon of the crash.

Ohio Secretary of State filings show Pochitila, his driver in March, is paid by Mandel’s state treasurer campaign. The federal campaign, Citizens for Josh Mandel Inc., reported to the FEC that it purchased the vehicle it was driving for $13,800 on March 8, 2012, ahead of the November Senate election.

The March accident report lists Citizens for Josh Mandel as the vehicle’s owner.

Ohio campaign finance law would have prohibited transferring the vehicle from the federal to the state campaign, though the state campaign could legally have purchased the vehicle. The state campaign chose to pay $1,000 to rent it for two months from the federal campaign.

Wasserstein said the rental fee covered January and February. After questioning by the AP, the campaign wrote an additional check for about $80 to cover the days in March before the vehicle was wrecked. The campaign provided listings showing several area Jeep rentals for less than $500 a month.

Mandel’s state treasurer campaign reported in Ohio filings that it bought a new vehicle for $15,000 on April 9, the month after the March crash.

  • Mark B

    If he was a democrat the Media would never report a single word about it .

    • Bob Owens

      But he is a republican and failed to report them. Now everyone is aware of it. I can’t wait until 2014.

      • Conservator440

        Do you have any problem with the President circumventing the Constitution and spits in the face of the law because he disagrees with them?

        • Derp

          See report on Josh Mandel being a low life, Better change the subject and talk about the President.

          Its gotta be tough creating an alternate reality to justify the one you live in

          • Conservator440

            It’s a matter of degrees. Mandel is hardly a lowlife. He is a Marine who served in a war zone. The man is a hero. If what he did (or did not do) was wrong, then let the chips fall. His “crime” is a misdemeanor. Those of the President are felonies. I live in reality. You libs are the one occupying the alternate reality of your own making.

          • Derp

            A marine that served in a Warzone? You might want to double check that. He was a marine that was stapled to a desk in a green zone for his entire tenure.

            Please stop lying to make yourself feel better about your chosen alternate reality.

            Us libs are the ones that brought about the end of slavery
            Us libs brought equal rights for women
            Us libs brought about child labor laws

            Conservatives fought against it the whole way through, If I recall correctly Conservative Strom Thurmond set the record for longest filibuster in his bid to stop racial integration.

            Thats your team captain right?
            Its got to feel horrible to be on the wrong side of history your whole life.

          • Conservator440

            You are certainly entitled to your own opinions, but never your own facts.

            Mandel served in the war zone. You can’t refute it.

            A Republican president freed the slaves and put an end to the peculiar institution. You may have heard of him. His name was Abraham Lincoln.

            It was Republicans who got the Civil Rights Act passed. It was opposed by the Dixiecrats. Al Gore, Sr. being one of its most well known objectors.

            The ERA was never ratified. You got one with child labor.

            Thurmond certainly did filibuster as you wrote, except for a tiny little detail you missed. He was a Democrat at the time. A Dixiecrat actually.

            When it comes to being on the wrong side, brother you take the cake. Alternate reality proven by Derp,

          • Derp

            Yeah served in a War Zone of AC and Papers and a desk, You can’t refute that.

            I will fight for the weak and you can keep being wrong.

            Glad Screech isnt a senator, Just imagine how many times he wouldn’t show up to that! haha

            Oh wait thats not reality neither right? Who needs facts and logic when you just want to be wrong.

            Stay in school kid

          • Derp

            PS you might want to check you alternate reality of facts: of your racists friend Strom Political partyRepublican (1964–death)
            States Rights Democratic(1948)
            Democratic (1946–1948, 1948–1964)

            as a Republican. He switched because of his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, disaffection with the liberalism of the national party, and his support for the conservatism and opposition to the Civil Rights bill of the Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater

            Again you are simply on the wrong side of history

            AGAIN!!!

  • albsdetector

    $14k seems like a lot to pay for an 8-9 year old Jeep cherokee. I wonder who he bought it from?

  • Pingback: Mandel Violated Campaign Law, in Move That Surprises No One | As Ohio Goes, So Goes the Nation

  • oldruss

    Mountain out of a mole hill.
    The campaign that owned the Jeep rented it to the other campaign, and that campaign paid a rental fee. End of story.

  • Michael A. Figueroa

    This is great!

  • Pingback: Josh Mandel Covers Up Two Wrecks and Misuse of Funds | bluntandcranky