Federal prosecutors in southern Ohio are looking into whether a mysterious political action committee that helped nominate an unknown congressional candidate violated federal election laws. The “Victory Ohio Super PAC” made a series of automated phone calls supporting Waverly, Ohio truck driver William R. Smith in last week’s Democratic primary for Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District seat. The PAC did not disclose its activity to the Federal Election Commission, which it would be required to do if it spent more than $1,000, so there’s no record of who is responsible for the calls.
Four days before Ohio’s primary election, Democratic voters in the 2nd Congressional District received a blitz of automated telephone calls supporting William R. Smith, a candidate who didn’t campaign, raised no money and gave no media interviews before the election. On election night, Smith won by 59 votes against a well-known, better funded and harder working candidate who had the endorsement of major Democratic groups. So who gets credit for helping Smith secure the Democratic nomination to Congress? No one knows. The “Victory Ohio Super PAC” claimed credit for the “robocalls,” but it is not registered with the Federal Election Commission and hasn’t disclosed any contributions or spending to federal regulators.
William R. Smith is the invisible candidate. No one has seen him; no one has heard him speak. Outside of his home county of Pike, there is probably no Democrat who could recognize him on sight. Tuesday, the Waverly resident won – barely – the popular vote in the 2nd District’s Democratic primary, while Brad Wenstrup was busy in the Republican primary upending a GOP incumbent member of Congress, Jean Schmidt. He came out ahead of Madeira’s David Krikorian, who ran against Schmidt as an independent in 2008, by a scant 59 votes out of slightly over 20,000 cast. Once the official count is done later this month, there may well be an automatic recount. “I have never seen. I don’t know him,” Krikorian said Wednesday. He blamed his loss on a mysterious SuperPAC that may have paid for calls for Smith and other Democrats.