Restoring America says it planned to get involved in Ohio races in addition to Kentucky

10/19/2011 07:32 PM

The outside Republican group at the center of a campaign finance controversy in Kentucky said it had planned to air ads in Ohio but the current flak over its funding has had “a chilling effect on prospective donors.”

So far, Restoring America’s only donor is Terry Stephens — the Russell Springs, Ky. businessman. Stephens and the group publicly acknowledged Wednesday for the first time that Stephens bankrolled the first $1.365 million the group raised and spent after its creation last month.

The organization disclosed the contribution in a follow-up report to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. It also included a letter signed by Restoring America’s treasurer, Mike Blankenbecler of Columbus, Ohio.

Blankenbecler wrote that the group intended to be a “regional outside-the-beltway organization” to address “runaway unemployment, bankrupting benefit packages for public sector unions and disastrous entitlement spending that has led to crippling debt.”

It went on to say that Ohio and Kentucky were the “logical outlets for the 527’s initial advocacy.” But Blankenbecler said the recent controversy over Stephens’ donation — and the initial lack of disclosure of it — has cost it donations.

“With the majority of its directors being located in Ohio, a priority has been to advocate on issues in that state; however, the resources in time and money consumed by the current litigation, the distraction of that litigation from Restoring America’s message, and the chilling effect on prospective donors have hampered that effort,” Blankenbecler wrote in the letter.

While Kentucky has statewide races next month, Ohioans will go to the polls Nov. 8 to vote on a ballot measure to determine whether or not to keep a new law that restricts collective bargaining rights of teachers.

Arguing that it planned to get involved in elections in other states is significant because the group, in its legal filings this week, compared itself to the Republican Governors Association. The Kentucky Registry of Election Finance allowed the RGA to make a bulk transfer of money from its coffers to a spin-off unauthorized campaign committee in Kentucky, called Bluegrass Prosperity, rather than identifiying individual donors.

However, the registry made it clear in an advisory opinion that if the RGA raised money specifically in Kentucky for the purpose of getting involved in a Kentucky race, that it would have to disclose those donors.

Along with Blankenbecler’s letter, the group also filed its independent expenditure reports showing money it spent on ad buys on Oct. 14, totaling $1.42 million, according to the documents obtained from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance by Pure Politics through an open records request.

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