PLYMOUTH, Ind. — The Marshall County Election Board is considering whether or not to seek misdemeanor charges against a Democrat run Political Action Committee registered in St. Joseph County. The board also has the ability to levy civil fines against the PAC known as Victory Committee.
The board held a hearing in Plymouth on Wednesday morning regarding illegal ads published by the PAC on Facebook. The issue at hand is, while the PAC is registered in St. Joseph County, it is not registered with the state. This means the PAC can run ads regarding races in St. Joseph County. However, it cannot run ads regarding state races. The PAC has run several ads against Republican State House Representative, Jake Teshka (District 7). It has also run ads in favor of his Democrat opponent, Ross Deal. Teshka’s district contains a portion of Marshall County.
The PAC has also failed to identify its name on ads, claiming it is the “Indiana Victory Committee” and “St. Joseph County Victory Committee” despite neither of those being the actual names of the PAC paying for the advertisements.
Further, the PAC failed to state that ads were “approved” or “not approved” by Democrat Ross Deal or his campaign when soliciting people to actually vote for him and against Teshka.
According to Indiana Code 3-9-3-2.5, “A communication described in subsection (b) must contain a disclaimer that appears and is presented in a clear and conspicuous manner to give the reader or observer adequate notice of the identity of persons who paid for and, when required, who authorized the communication. A disclaimer does not comply with this section if the disclaimer is difficult to read or if the placement of the disclaimer is easily overlooked.”
And, according to Indiana Code 3-14-1-3 “An individual, an organization, or a committee that circulates or publishes material in an election without the statement required under IC 3-9-3-2.5 commits a Class A misdemeanor.”
WHO RUNS IT?
According to PAC filing documents with the St. Joseph County Clerk’s Office, the PAC is run by two men. One is Josh Levesque out of Indianapolis. Another is Ethan Horvath, the former Executive Director of the St. Joseph County Democrat Party.
According to the St. Joseph County Democrat Party, Horvath left the area in 2015 to work on the campaign of a Democrat Mayoral candidate in Bloomington. The next year, he became the campaign manager in a failed State Senate race.
Horvath failed to attend Wednesday’s hearing. Instead, attorney Alex Bowman made an appearance for him. Bowman first attempted to argue that the Marshall County Election Board did not have jurisdiction over the case, since the PAC is registered in St. Joseph County. The board unanimously disagreed with that assertion, since Teshka represents a portion of Marshall County.
Bowman then attempted to assert that Victory Committee was in compliance with state statute because they provided a name with “Victory Committee” in it on the ads. A majority of the board appeared to disagree with that assertion.
Finally, Bowman attempted to claim state statute did not force Victory Committee to include disclaimers, which is in complete contradiction of the Indiana Election Division interpretation of Indiana election law. The Indiana Election Division is also separately investigating the PAC for potential election crimes.
The Election Board eventually decided to seek out more advice from the Indiana Election Division before making a decision on whether to seek criminal charges or levy a civil fine. The board will pick up where it left off on November 2nd at 8:00am at the Clerk’s Office in Plymouth.
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