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Ohio Elections Commission rules in favor of Rep. Wiggam, others in finance complaint

The Daily Record logo The Daily Record 10/7/2021 Bryce Buyakie, The Daily Record
Attorney for Sen. Robert McColley, R-Napoleon, defends his client on Thursday before the Ohio Elections Commission. © Bryce Buyakie Attorney for Sen. Robert McColley, R-Napoleon, defends his client on Thursday before the Ohio Elections Commission.

In a near-unanimous vote Thursday, the Ohio Elections Commission ruled the American Legislative Exchange Council violated no Ohio campaign finance laws when it provided software worth $3,000 to three Ohio legislators during their 2020 campaigns.

State Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster, Sen. Robert McColley, R-Napoleon, and Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, were named in a complaint that alleged they did not report the gifted software as in-kind contributions on their campaign finance reports.

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The commission ruled the three legislators did not violate Ohio law.

"Because they didn't accept and use the software and it was only provided to them, it is not an in-kind contribution," said Executive Director Philip Richter, who recommend the no violation ruling.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Scott Wiggam, Ohio State Representative for District 1 © Submitted photo Scott Wiggam, Ohio State Representative for District 1

The only dissenting voice on the commission acknowledged the commission doesn't know if Wiggam activated the software or not. If activated and used, Richter said it could be a violation of Ohio law.

Wiggam's office did not return phone calls requesting comment Thursday.

No representative for Wiggam, Seitz or ALEC was present for the hearing. An attorney for McColley told the commission the senator did not accept the software and no staff members used it.

The Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause Ohio filed the complaint and requested an investigation in early August.

Potential conflicts of interest

Bill Seitz wearing a suit and tie: Rep. Bill Seitz speaks against a resolution to expel Rep. Larry Householder during a session of the Ohio House at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch Rep. Bill Seitz speaks against a resolution to expel Rep. Larry Householder during a session of the Ohio House at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

The three legislators are members of ALEC who held high-ranking state-level positions in the organization during the 2020 election, according to ALEC's website.

Wiggam and McColley were Ohio ALEC chair members while Seitz was the director of ALEC's board.

Each pays $100 per year to remain a member of ALEC, according to the complaint filed two months ago, which alleged they received electoral software for free valued at $3,000 per copy.

Rob McColley wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon © Ohio Senate Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon

The electoral software in question was created by Voter Gravity, a software company that provides real-time voter information in one place for campaigns.

The software company designed the Constituent Analytics Research Exchange, or CARE, training program through ALEC that allows candidates to use voter data when seeking re-election, according to the complaint.

Election complaint: Ohio Elections Commission to review campaign finance complaint against Rep. Wiggam, others

Candidates can sign up for the CARE program through Voter Gravity, according to the ALEC CARE website.

Voter Gravity has a history of partisan politics, especially after it integrated into the Republican National Convention database in 2015.

"We believe that this is going to help more Republican candidates win in 2016,” said Chris Littleton, head of operations at Voter Gravity, in a 2015 news release. “We’re going to continue pushing the envelope on our software and make Voter Gravity an even more powerful, user-friendly system.”

The Center for Media and Democracy maintains the Voter Gravity-linked RNC program provided in ALEC CARE was an in-kind campaign contribution that goes against campaign finance laws.

Reach Bryce by email at bbuyakie@gannett.com

On Twitter: @Bryce_Buyakie

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Ohio Elections Commission rules in favor of Rep. Wiggam, others in finance complaint

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