A mysterious federal super-PAC is spending six-figures to support Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s daughter in her race for Greene County prosecutor while delaying disclosure of her political benefactors until after the election.
Protecting Ohio Action Fund incurred debts of $104,000 last year for polling and digital advertising for Alice DeWine’s bid for the Republican nomination for prosecutor. But it listed only one donation of $199. The donor was not identified; federal election law requires disclosure only on contributions of at lest $200.
Protecting Ohio Action Fund will not be required to list the names of more-recent donors of $200 or more until its next Federal Election Commission report due April 15, nearly a month after the March 17 primary that will decide the race.
Meanwhile, multiple mailings advising voters to “tell Alice DeWine to continue working for Greene County values” and “thank Alice DeWine for making sure the law is on the side of families” are arriving at homes.
The mailings promoting DeWine ahead of the prosecutor primary are listed as paid for by Protecting Ohio Inc., a tax-exempt “social welfare” nonprofit that lists a Columbus post office box as its address.
As a dark-money group not required to disclose its donors, Protecting Ohio Inc. can promote a cause, which it says is boosting “individuals who fundamentally believe families deserve to know they are safe (and) the law is enforced.”
It could not be established if the two Protecting Ohio entities are related. The involvement of a super-PAC, which can spend money in support of a political candidate, but not directly contribute to or coordinate with the candidate, in a county-level race is unusual.
Whoever wins the Greene County GOP primary will become the next prosecutor since there is no Democrat candidate. DeWine is opposed by David Hayes, an assistant Greene County prosecutor with whom she worked prior to joining the Clark County prosecutor’s office last year. Gov. DeWine began his political career in 1977 as Greene County prosecutor.
Hayes said he was not surprised by the involvement of “outsiders” in the race considering his opponent’s name and connections and her father possessing “arguably the most powerful political machine in Ohio.”
Long-time Mike DeWine allies from his home county such as Sheriff Gene Fischer and outgoing Prosecutor Stephen Haller have endorsed him, Hayes said, since he is “more experienced and more qualified.”
Alice DeWine did not respond to requests for comment. She reported raising $42,399 (including a $15,000 loan from herself) in her year-end campaign finance report, with a balance of $15,323. DeWine’s father and mother, Fran, each contributed $1,000.
Hayes raised $36,025 and had a balance of $20,510.
In her biggest expenditure, DeWine paid $6,449 for web design and literature on Sept. 20 to Majority Strategies, a Jacksonville, Florida, company led by Brett Buerck, who was chief of staff to Larry Householder during his first stint as Ohio House speaker in the early 2000s.
Protecting Ohio Action Fund’s year-end federal filing reported it owed $104,281 to Majority Strategies for polling and digital advertising. Buerck did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Majority Strategies regularly works with the Ohio Republican Party, the Republican Senate Campaign Committee and other politicians who jointly have paid the firm $2.4 million since 2018.
The political action committee also maintains a web site promoting DeWine and her stance on the issues at protectinggreenecounty.com
The Dispatch reported last year that a national research opposition firm filed public records requests concerning Republican Haller shortly before he decided not to seek re-election as prosecutor. The governor and his daughter said they knew nothing about the requests.
A group dubbed Protecting Ohio was created as a federal Super PAC on Dec. 20, 2017 with a Columbus post office box address, but never raised a cent and was terminated on April 26, 2018.
Protecting Ohio Inc. was incorporated in Virginia on May 24, 2019 as an tax-exempt nonprofit by James Tyrrell III, a Washington D.C. political law specialist. Tyrrell said he does not discuss his clients.
Protecting Ohio Action Fund became a super-PAC in a Sept. 9, 2019 filing with the Federal Election Commission, listing its treasurer as a Washington D.C. accountant who handles “outsourced” PACs. The treasurer, Mike McCauley, did not respond to a request for comment.