Ohio Republicans spent more than half a million dollars on a successful bid to keep Libertarian Party gubernatorial* candidate Charlie Earl off the state ballot last year. The GOP initially balked at the accusation that they had engaged in any dirty dealings to thwart Earl’s candidacy. Then, in a federal lawsuit filed by the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO), District Judge Michael H. Watson found that it was “obvious” that “operatives or supporters of the Ohio Republican Party” had indeed hired a “dupe” to bring about Earl’s electoral demise. Unfortunately, the dupe—Gregory Felsoci, an LPO member who filed a formal complaint with the secretary of state’s office challenging signatures the party collected—did have a point, the judge decided: Earl’s petition circulators had not disclosed that they were being paid by the LPO.
The LPO argued back that Ohio’s petition-circulator rules are selectively enforced, and their enforcement here merely a matter of Earl’s potential to siphon votes away from incumbent Republican Gov. John Kasich. (Ohio Democrats, for their part, worked to get Earl on the ballot, ostensibly for this very reason.)
A Republican consultant and Kasich appointee was found to be responsible for hiring the law firm that hired Felsoci to challenge Earl’s petitions. And the man hired to oversee Earl’s disqualification hearing also volunteered for Ohio’s GOP Attorney General Mike DeWine, though he didn’t disclose this at the time. Now, recently revealed court filings show how much the Ohio Republican Party spent in legal fees to successfully strangle Earl’s candidacy: nearly $600,000.