COLUMBUS, Ohio –¬†A former co-campaign manager for Ohio gubernatorial candidate Joe Blystone has filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) that alleges the candidate purposely underreported cash contributions, failed to disclose the names of those contributors in campaign finance reports, and that “these cash contributions are being reported in this manner in order to facilitate a theft of these campaign funds by the respondents.”

The former co-campaign manager, Sarah Chambers, filed the complaint, OEC Case #2021G-022, on October 28 supported by affidavits of other former staff and volunteers who claim they also witnessed the collection of cash donations not properly recorded at the expressed direction of the Blystone campaign leadership.

“Candidate for governor Joe Blystone’s campaign has engaged in an unprecedented level of illegal activity. More than a dozen Blystone for Governor donors, volunteers, and staff members who witnessed these illegal acts have come forward,” the complaint began:

The Blystone for Governor campaign collected tens of thousands of dollars in illegal donations, failed to document thousands of dollars in donations, violated numerous campaign finance laws and did so deliberately. As you will see, staff members were given specific instructions to NOT document donor information. Staff members have provided sworn affidavits, video documentation, bank statements, and various other pieces of evidence that show Joe Blystone’s campaign has violated multiple laws.

Read the full complaint plus all the exhibits here:

The OEC has scheduled a hearing for December 16 to review the allegations.

Blystone, Governor Mike DeWine (R-OH), and former Congressman Jim Renacci are the three declared candidates vying for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the May 3, 2022 primary.

Details presented in filings

Chambers, who left the Blystone campaign this summer after four months working for the campaign, declined to comment for this story.

But she and other former staff and volunteers in the campaign told The Ohio Star in an August 21 story of an organization in chaos as numerous people left in a span of four or fives weeks between her departure and mid-August.

The allegations in the OEC complaint  include support from five former staff members or volunteers named in the complaint who have submitted sworn statements as well as one anonymous volunteer.

One detailed allegation is that Blystone’s campaign filed a mid-year campaign report showing that $88,142 of $258,836 in cash donations were at or below the $25 reporting threshold not requiring donor identification. The complaint said that maximum level suggests more than 3,526 contributors contributed that amount not requiring disclosure.

“Complainant is unable to find any other candidate with such a high level of cash contributions received,” the second of 11 counts in the complaint states.

“Complainant alleges these cash contributions are being reported in this manner in order to disguise their true size and scope,” the complaint states. “Complainant further states that these cash contributions are being reported in this manner in order to facilitate a theft of these campaign funds by the respondents.” (emphasis added)

Chambers alleges in the complaint she made total contributions in goods and contributions of $13,871.97 to the campaign.  In her affidavits (See Exhibits 3 and 4 of the complaint), she said those contributions never showed up in campaign finance documents. (See Exhibits 5 to 14 of the complaint). The campaign finance report only showed three contributions (Exhibit 15 of the complaint) totaling $515.

She also has alleged the campaign refunded a portion of her contributions, but no such refund showed up in the campaign finance report filed July 30.

Chambers said she personally observed other potential violations of campaign finance laws, and alleged she was “personally instructed not to write down any donor information.”

A former regional leader of the Blystone campaign, Stephanie Foucher,” alleges (See Exhibits 15 and 16 of the complaint) that she made more than $2,000 in contributions in cash and through the campaign’s website (see Exhibit 19 of the complaint), but that campaign finance only shows $615 in reported contributions (see Exhibit 20 of the complaint).

She also claims she was told not to record donor information.

Count Nine of the complaint outlined a scheme where volunteers were required to pay $1,070 for a “pop up kit” containing 50 signs, 20 shirts, 20 flags, and 20 stickers. After an event, the volunteers either pay that cost of the materials from their sales, returning unsold items for credit or pay the difference out of their own pocket as a contribution.

“The very design of this process,” the allegation states, “calls for the deliberate concealment of the actual donors to the campaign and clearly appears to violate Ohio’s campaign finance laws.”

The complaint also specifies that one contribution for $100, which was not reported in the most recent filing by the Blystone campaign, was captured on video:

  • On May 8, 2021, Douglas Frank attended an event and while there made a $100 cash contribution directly to Joseph K. Blystone for Friends of Joe Blystone.
  • That contribution was captured on video and can be viewed by watching the disc attached here as Complainant’s Exhibit #1
  • Notwithstanding this evidence, a review of the campaign finance records located at the Ohio Secretary of State indicates NO contributions from Douglas Frank to Friends of Joe Blystone.

Blystone denies all allegations

Respondents in the complaint are Blystone, his wife and campaign treasurer M. Jane Blystone, and the Friends of Joe Blystone campaign. The Blystones live in Canal Winchester, southeast of Columbus.

Columbus attorney Mike Lawson sent a press release on behalf of the Blystone campaign to The Star on Monday denying all of the allegations in the OEC complaint, calling the ex-campaign manager, staff members and volunteers “a small group of disgruntled individuals” who have “conspired to create a campaign of vague, ambiguous and unverifiable accusations.”

The press release claims Chambers had mismanaged her responsibilities as a regional manager and “left on bad terms.”

“Chambers was responsible for handling donations for the Campaign at several events,” the press release reads, “so she is likely liable for any mishandling of donations that she alleges occured.”

The letter also takes a similar tack regarding allegations made by Foucher and the others who made accusations in Chambers’ complaint, including alleging that two now work for an unspecified competing campaign.

It also denies any allegations regarding the “pop-up kits” events. “The volunteers who used these kits took responsibility for passing these materials out,” the letter states. “This is a very typical campaign activity.”

The press release offers this explanation for the video of the May 8, 2021 event at which Douglas Frank purportedly donated $100 in cash to Joe Blystone, but no such donation was recorded in the Blystone campaign’s financial report:

The Complaint alleges that Douglas Frank gave an unreported $100.00 to the Campaign and that it is on video. That $100.00 bill that was handed to Mr. Blystone at the event was a prop, intended to illustrate and motivate the crowd at the event. It was not a real donation and the $100.00 bill was given back to Mr. Frank.

The Star spoke via phone with Douglas Frank briefly Monday night in order to confirm the Blystone campaign’s account of his $100 cash donation on May 8, 2021 as a “prop,” but Frank was not willing to address the matter, stating that he would be available to discuss it either later in the evening or on Tuesday morning. The Star’s subsequent phone call to Frank went to voicemail.

Dr. Douglas Frank has participated in several events with Joe Blystone. On June 18, for instance, they were both featured at an event where Dr. Frank was featured as an “internationally renowned physicist who discovered the keys to election fraud.”

Blystone’s campaign also denied the cash donations were improperly tracked.

“The Complaint lacks any basis and merely takes an uneducated guess,” the Blystone response reads. “This is pure slander, it is false, and the Campaign will prove that.”

You can read the November 1 press release provided to The Ohio Star by attorney Lawson on behalf of the Blystone campaign here.

The Star plans to continue following this story as events develop.

Read the Blystone Campaign statement:

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Brian R. Ball is a veteran Columbus journalist writing for The Ohio Star and Star News Network. Send him news tips to [email protected]

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the date of the campaign event at which Douglas Frank gave $100 to Joe Blystone to May 8, 2021.