Congressman Mike Turner’s campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against Theresa Gasper, the Democrat seeking to replace him this November in the race for Ohio District 10.
Turner, R-Dayton, alleges Gasper’s campaign “knowingly and intentionally misled the public for fundraising purposes” when the campaign included the names of five local universities above lists of individuals at those schools who support her campaign.
Gapser’s campaign has called the matter a “formatting error” and criticized Turner’s response as “over-the-top.”
Central State University, Wright State University, Sinclair Community College, Antioch University and the University of Dayton each demanded Gasper remove their trademarked name from her fundraising material. Each school declined comment for this story.
The Dayton Daily News found top Central State University administrators personally warned Gasper against implying the school endorsed her campaign before the invitation was produced, according to the school’s cease and desist letter.
“By ignoring those warnings, Gasper knowingly and intentionally misled the public for fundraising purposes,” said Kevin Doering, Citizens for Turner deputy campaign manager, in a statement. “These universities fully understand what’s at stake, including direct funding for their students. This is an extremely serious issue and the universities have issued cease and desist orders against Gasper’s campaign.”
Federal law prohibits universities from endorsing candidates for political office.
Gasper did not personally sign off on the invitations featuring the names of the five local schools, Shu-Yen Wei, her campaign manager, told the Dayton Daily News at the time of the original report earlier in July.
In a statement, Gasper said “Turner’s pettiness is dwarfed by his lack of self-awareness.”
“This was a simple error that we corrected, and Congressman Turner launching an over-the-top attack is exactly the type of Washington politics our community is tired of,” Gasper said. “While his constituents regularly stand in front of his office wanting to be heard, he is picking political fights. Maybe if he held a town hall, he wouldn’t be so out-of-touch.”
Turner’s six-page complaint requests the commission “thoroughly investigate” the allegations and order Gasper to “fully comply with all relevant laws and regulations.”
Turner’s complaint says the five schools listed in Gasper’s invitation each possess “significant goodwill within the local community.” Turner argues that if a school endorsed a candidate, that candidate would receive an in-kind donation of that individual school’s goodwill.
Turner alleges the Gasper campaign “constructively received this in-kind contribution by bestowing it upon themselves, despite warnings from at least one of the institutions of higher education that it did not give — and would be prohibited from giving — such an in-kind contribution.”
“Gasper’s actions could jeopardize millions of dollars that go to our academic community,” Turner said in an interview. “It’s just wrong to politicize our academic community … What this shows is a complete lack of experience and amateur time from her and her campaign. She doesn’t even know the rules for running a campaign, she certainly can’t navigate Congress.”
While Gasper’s campaign put Antioch University on the invitation, Turner’s campaign referred to Antioch College in the complaint. The college and university both have operations in Greene County, but have been legally separate since 2009. In the interview, Turner said his campaign amended the complaint when the error was discovered.
“A legal violation isn’t a typo,” Turner said, defending his campaign’s mistake compared to Gasper’s invitation.
On Friday, an FEC spokesperson said the commission had not yet received Turner’s complaint.
James Gardner, a University at Buffalo election law professor, previously told the paper the FEC is so dysfunctional it likely wouldn’t take action on Turner’s complaint.
The commission is supposed to be made up of six members, with no more than three members of the same political party. Currently, the commission has two Republicans, one Democrat, one Independent and two vacant seats. The complaint process requires a vote by at least four of the commissioners to initiate an investigation, find that a violation has occurred, or settle a matter.