SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A Democrat PAC in St. Joseph County simply disappeared following devastating defeats of most of the candidates it was supporting. Only days after St. Joseph County went red for the first time in history, the St. Joseph County Victory Committee disappeared from social media, where it had been launching most of its attacks against members of the GOP. One of the main candidates receiving support from the PAC, District 7 State House Representative Candidate Ross Deal (D), also appears to have deleted his social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Deal lost to Republican Jake Teshka in a landslide — with Teshka taking more than 60-percent of the vote.
Victory Committee also launched attacks against St. Joseph County Commissioner Carl Baxmeyer (R) and County Councilwoman Amy Drake (R), who both won their elections.
Victory Committee has been in hot water for violating several Indiana election laws, which could explain the reason for the PAC disappearing from the public eye. On November 2nd, the Marshall County Election board found the 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 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.
Only days after the PAC was found guilty, it committed the exact same crimes with an advertisement that was sent out in the mail. However, it’s unclear if a complaint has been filed in that case yet.
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” continued to run ads in the State House race.
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