The Ohio Election Commission will do its own investigation into whether or not Democratic congressional candidate Aftab Pureval improperly spent money from his state campaign fund on his federal race.
That would be a violation of Ohio election law.
The commission voted 6-1 Thursday morning to look into the complaint filed by Mark Miller of Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST).
Pureval spent $30,000 from his clerk of courts campaign in the first six months of 2018. He has said those were expenses related to his county office.
But Miller, through his lawyer, Brian Shrive, argues that Pureval filed inaccurate campaign finance reports, failed to document expenses and spent money from his clerk of courts campaign account on his congressional campaign. Pureval is running against Republican incumbent Steve Chabot.
After Thursday morning's hearing, Both sides had their own take on the commission's action.
"Aftab Pureval acted legally and appropriately with respect to all campaign finance reporting,'' said Alex Lundrigan, a spokesman for the Pureval campaign. "The Ohio Elections Commission did not find today that any violation occured, but rather has given the parties the chance to make their case at a subsequent hearing."
Chris Martin, regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, put out a written statement. "As we've said all along, Aftab Pureval is a phony politician who thinks the rules don't apply to him."
One of the checks in question was for $16,427 and was made out to GBA Strategies, a Washington, D.C. firm that does polling for Democratic candidates. Recently, GBA Strategies released a poll paid for by the Pureval campaign showing the 36-year-old Democrat with a 2 percentage point lead over Chabot, who has held the First Congressional District seat for 22 years.
It is one of the most closely watched House races in the country, as the Democrats try to regain control of Congress. Most recent polling shows the Chabot-Pureval race a virtual dead heat.
Thursday's hearing in Columbus lasted about an hour.
Phil Richter, executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission, said a majority of board members "believed there was at least a sufficient showing that there was a possible violation of election law, and that it was worth investigating further."
"It doesn't mean there will be a finding against the Pureval campaign,'' Richter told WVXU. "There could be, but there must be an investigation into the charges first."
The elections commission has not yet set a date for another hearing on the matter. Richter said he will work with both campaigns to find a date suitable to both.
"I think the board would like to deal with this as quickly as possible,'' Richter said.