PLYMOUTH, Ind. — The Marshall County Election board found a Political Action Committee (PAC), run by the former Executive Director of the St. Joseph County Democrat Party, did in fact break election laws with advertisements being run in a state legislature race. The board had the discretion to seek criminal charges against the people running “Victory Committee,” but decided to levy a $250 civil fine instead.
The board unanimously found the PAC guilty on Wednesday morning for failing to provide the proper name about who paid for an advertisement and for failing to give an “approved by” or “not approved by” statement on a Facebook ad that advocated for District 7 State House Rep. Candidate, Ross Deal (D) and against incumbent Jake Teshka (R).
The “Victory Committee” listed several names on its advertisements. One being the “Indiana Victory Committee” and another being the “St. Joseph County Victory Committee.” The only registered PAC with the St. Joseph County Clerk is “Victory Committee,” which was not listed on the advertisement.
According to page transparency data on Facebook, the ad ran from September 26th-October 2nd. The PAC took the original post down after being contacted by RNM for comment on the issue.
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.
That investigation follows a complaint by a local citizen which was filed on October 8th.
“I am writing to file a complaint and request a formal inquiry into a political action committee (PAC) registered with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in Saint Joseph County as ‘Victory Committee.’” The complaint reads. “On or about September 26, 2022, ‘Victory Committee’ began running ads targeting the campaign of State Representative Jake Teshka on social media. These ads both advocated against Rep. Teshka and urged voters to choose his opponent, Ross Deal. As the committee is not registered with the Indiana Election Commission per IC 3-9-1-4 but is making expenditures to influence the outcome of a state legislative race, I believe the committee is in violation of state law. Furthermore, the disclaimer on the social media ads claims that the expenditure was made by ‘St. Joseph County Victory Committee.’ No committee by that name can be found registered with either the state or the Saint Joseph County Circuit Court.”
Despite the investigation, “Victory Committee” has continued to run ads in the State House race.
SJC DEMOCRAT PARTY AFFILIATION
Even though the Indiana Election Division launched their investigation on October 11th, the St. Joseph Democrat Party held a fundraiser with the PAC on Friday, October 14th. The event was a paid trivia night at the South Bend Firefighters Hall where several Democrat candidates attended, including County Commissioner Candidate Don Westerhausen.
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