Two days after signing onto a bid to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine for purportedly violating state law and the Ohio Constitution, Republican Rep. Nino Vitale was accused of illegally hiding how he raised and spent campaign funds.
He turned in a blank campaign finance form the day after a completed one was due in early June, said Secretary of State Frank LaRose in referring the Urbana lawmaker to the Ohio Elections Commission. No record of Vitale attempting to update the legally required information was included.
“I swore an oath to uphold the law, so when I see an apparent violation of our state’s campaign finance statutes, I am duty bound to refer it to the Ohio Elections Commission.” said LaRose in an unusual press release issued after the referral. “All public officials must be held accountable.”
Vitale has been as outspoken as any Ohio lawmaker against the DeWine administration’s health orders issued to stem to spread of COVID-19. Vitale has refused to wear a mask even in legislative sessions, saying he didn’t want to cover up a face made in the image of God.
After he added his name to the push for the removal of his fellow Republican — who he calls “Dictator DeWine” — Vitale said on Facebook: “Articles of Impeachment do not go far enough for me. While it’s a good step, Dictator DeWine needs to be charged and tried for crimes against humanity, in my opinion…
“The hundreds and hundreds of phone calls I have gotten and continue to get at my office make me depressed and angry. This oppression has got to stop and I’m fighting it every way I know how.”
Vitale also was accused by LaRose of failing to report expenditures for three Facebook ads last year, which should have been made public on his campaign finance report for 2019 that was due at the end of January 2020.
That wasn’t all.
Additionally, “Friends to Elect Nino Vitale directs contributors to make contributions through the campaign’s online payment processor, publicly boasts about the success of the solicitations, but then failed to report having received any online contributions or the natural expenditures an online payment processor charges for having administered those contributions,” LaRose said in his complaint to the commission.
Vitale also was accused of co-mingling campaign money with his personal or business accounts. He directed payment for the conceal-carry class he teaches to his campaign account, the complaint says.
Finally, Vitale converted campaign money to his personal use, LaRose said. The social media accounts he set up for his House campaign also were used for ads soliciting personal business, per the complaint.
It was not immediately clear what penalties Vitale faces. The Elections Commission has relatively limited power.
An attempt to reach him through a House spokeswoman was unsuccessful.