Rep. Chabot gets new campaign treasurer amid probe into missing money

Man listed as previous campaign treasurer claims he never worked for the campaign except as a volunteer sometimes

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, has hired a new campaign treasurer as federal investigators probe his campaign over missing money. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, has hired a new campaign treasurer as federal investigators probe his campaign over missing money. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted September 17, 2019 at 11:35am

Ohio GOP Rep. Steve Chabot’s campaign has hired a new treasurer after revealing earlier this month that federal investigators launched a probe into missing campaign funds totaling more than $123,000.

Natalie Baur, who has been the finance director and treasurer for Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s campaign since 2009, is listed as Chabot’s new campaign treasurer on a Federal Election Commission document filed Monday.

Baur previously served as finance director for the Ohio Republican Party from 1994 to 2000 before starting her own campaign finance consulting firm.

Baur’s hiring follows a bizarre series of events in Ohio’s 1st District earlier this month, where for years James Schwartz Sr., a jeweler from Bridgetown, Ohio, was listed as Chabot’s campaign treasurer.

But Schwartz Sr., whose son Jamie is Chabot’s campaign manager, claimed he has never served in that role.

“I am not now, nor ever have been, the treasurer for the Steve Chabot for Congress campaign,” Schwartz Sr. told the Cincinnati Enquirer in a statement last week. “I have never served the campaign in any official capacity other than as an occasional volunteer…I had no knowledge of the use of my name on any campaign documents or filings until recent reports,” he said.

Calls to Schwartz’s office at Prime Media, a Cincinnati-based political advertising firm that he co-founded, have not been successful, as it appears the phone line has been disconnected.

Local reporters have also not been able to reach Jamie Schwartz, who is under investigation.

In April, Chabot’s campaign filed an amended first-quarter report for 2019 that disclosed an increase in receipts totaling $123,625.72 from the original report, according to a letter from the FEC dated Aug. 27.

The FEC asked the campaign to clarify that discrepancy by Oct. 1.

Chabot’s campaign has gone mostly silent about the matter after releasing a statement earlier this month appearing to pin blame for the missing money on the campaign treasurer — who, again, claims he never knew he was listed as such until recently.

“Chabot for Congress is prepared to fully cooperate and assist both law enforcement and the Federal Election Commission to ensure that those responsible are held to account and to correct any inaccurate filings about the campaign’s finances as quickly as possible if any occurred,” said Mark Braden, the Chabot campaign’s lawyer.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is changing election filing rules to ensure such a mistake listing an incorrect campaign treasurer never happens again.

Previously, campaigns could submit 30D forms to the secretary of state’s office designating a campaign treasurer with only a candidate’s signature to verify the move, even though there is a line for the treasurer’s signature as well.

LaRose will now require that both the candidate and the treasurer sign the document, multiple local news outlets in Ohio reported.

LaRose is also working with state Rep. George Lang on a bill that would require campaign treasurers to sign a notarized document of their intent to serve in that capacity.

The Democratic Party of Ohio has seized on the investigation into the Chabot campaign as it sets its sights on winning the competitive district in the 2020 elections, saying in a statement earlier this month that “accountability must start at the top.”

Chabot won reelection to Ohio’s 1st District last year by just 4 points. Political experts have speculated since that the 11-term congressman could retire at the end of his current term and there are Republicans in the district considering primary challenges.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for Ohio’s 1st District Leans Republican.

Democratic candidates Kate Schroder and Nikki Foster have both called for a House Ethics Committee investigation into Chabot in addition to the federal probe.

“I call for an investigation. But I’m also calling on Congressman Chabot to do what’s right and resign. Mr. Chabot — Ohio is watching,” Foster said.