Auditors cite state GOP for using tax money on alcohol

State auditors wrote that the state GOP’s 2011 purchases of $2,000 worth of luggage tags, $37 in sympathy flowers and $691 in alcohol didn’t serve a “proper public purpose,” according to an audit released Tuesday. To pay for the items, the party illegally used an account that is in part funded by donations Ohioans make by checking a box on their income tax returns.

It is illegal to use tax money to purchase alcohol under a 1982 opinion from the Ohio Attorney General. Further, use of political party funds is strictly governed by law, and is only allowed to be spent on party operations expenses such as rent and utilities.

State auditors routinely check how the political party funds are spent each year.

The ORP repaid the money last July from internal accounts. Party officials wrote in a response to auditors that “The Party does not disagree with the finding and has, as noted already, reimbursed the funds to the restricted account. Expecting the party should be familiar with Auditor of State bulletin opinions is not customary or reasonable.”

Auditors also took issue with two donations totaling $1,800 the state GOP received in its political party fund from county GOP operations in Sandusky County and Cuyahoga County. The party made transfers to correct the problem, officials wrote.

Finally, auditors flagged the state GOP for accepting a maximum $10,000 contribution from an unidentified beverage company and then accepting an additional $265 payment from that same company. Party officials wrote that the second payment was a reimbursement, and refunded the money.

Ohio Republican Party spokesman Matt Henderson said in an interview the problems identified in the audit have been corrected.

“It was a right transfer, wrong account type of thing,” he said.

State auditors cited the Montgomery County Republican Party for a similar issue earlier this year. In April, the Montgomery County GOP repaid itself after it used about $1,400 in political party funds to buy alcohol for a fundraiser.

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