Insurance Payment Absent After Ohio Treasurer Crash

By JULIE CARR SMYTH | September 3, 2013

Ohio Republican Josh Mandel’s federal campaign committee has yet to report receiving an insurance check for a vehicle disabled in a March wreck, an Associated Press review of campaign finance filings shows.

The absence of a reported payment months after the accident involving the Ohio state treasurer and failed U.S. Senate candidate adds to questions surrounding the crash. It involved a vehicle owned by Mandel’s 2012 Senate campaign months after he’d lost his high-profile bid to unseat Democrat Sherrod Brown.

Since using a Senate campaign vehicle to run for state office is prohibited, Mandel’s state treasurer campaign says it rented the SUV from the federal campaign. The rental payment came June 30, after the vehicle had been totaled.

A state campaign representative questioned Thursday couldn’t immediately provide the status of any insurance claim.

The State Highway Patrol reported the 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee was disabled and towed after the March 5 accident near Toledo. Mandel’s campaign has said it was totaled. A vehicle history report on the SUV indicates no activity since then.

Quarterly campaign finance filings contain no insurance reimbursement as yet. The latest report covered the period from April 1 to June 30. That could mean the check had not yet been received, that a claim was submitted and denied, or that Mandel decided not to file a claim after the accident.

As state treasurer, Mandel has opted not to use state-owned transportation for official business in order to save taxpayer money.

Spokeswoman Rebecca Wasserstein said it was her belief that a claim had been filed, but she couldn’t readily say whether the payment had come in since the end of June or if the insurance settlement had hit a snag. She said any settlement check that the federal campaign receives will be on the campaign’s next report to the Federal Election Commission.

“Josh Mandel’s campaign committee followed the letter of the law and the spirit of the law and has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Wasserstein said. “Treasurer Mandel takes campaign finance law very seriously and assumes that his team is always following the rules, as was the case in this instance.”

Besides the insurance issue, the AP’s review found:

– A second accident in the same vehicle involving the same driver took place on July 20, 2012, according to a vehicle history report. Brian Pochatila, who was at the wheel during the March crash, was driving when the vehicle was rear-ended in northeast Ohio. Wasserstein said Pochatila was on his way home after dropping off Mandel for the night.

– Mandel’s treasurer campaign reported “other income” totaling $1,000 from the U.S. Senate campaign on June 30, the same day the treasurer campaign had paid $1,000 to rent the Jeep. The campaign said the listing was an error and acted quickly Thursday to fix it.

(AP News Researcher Barbara Sambriski contributed to this report.)

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