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Group spends big in GOP race

Advertisements criticizing Louis G. Lyras, a Republican candidate in the 13th Congressional District primary, and praising Christina M. Hagan, who’s also seeking the GOP nomination, are not being funded by Hagan, but by the Ohio Freedom Fund, a group that has spent $75,000 on media buys and production in the past week-plus, according to a recent document filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Where is the Ohio Freedom Fund getting its money?

That’s a good question, and documents don’t provide that information. There’s nothing illegal or improper about the independent expenditure group as long as it doesn’t coordinate with Hagan or her campaign.

If the organization is willing to spend $75,000 to defeat Lyras, imagine what it will spend should Hagan win Tuesday’s Republican primary and move to the general election to face U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland.

Hagan of Marlboro Township received $97,406.28 in contributions Jan. 1 through Feb. 26, but spent only $17,321.58.

Lyras of Campbell has run a largely self-funded campaign. Since October 2019, he’s raised $85,776.02 with $85,000 coming from loans he gave his campaign. The campaign also has $11,630.99 in debt owed to Lyras. Lyras’ campaign has spent $60,632.16 on the campaign as of Feb. 26.

While seven Republicans are running in Tuesday’s primary, Hagan and Lyras are the two presumptive leading candidates.

In the Ohio Freedom Fund’s ads, Lyras is labeled as someone who voted for and gave a campaign contribution to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, while Hagan is pro-gun, pro-life and pro-President Donald Trump.

Lyras admits to voting for Sanders and giving him a campaign contribution in 2016. Lyras said he did so to stop Hillary Clinton from winning the Democratic nomination that year. He said he doesn’t agree with everything Trump does, but said he’s a supporter of the Republican president.

As for the ads, Lyras said, “I don’t like it. It’s not me. There’s nothing I can do about it. Let them do what they want to do. They’re driving people to my website. I’m a moderate. I’m pragmatic.”

The commercial refers to him as a “liberal” in a derogatory manner.

The Mahoning County Board of Elections voting record for Lyras show he voted in the Democratic primary in both 2016 and 2018. That’s strange because Lyras ran in 2018 as an independent for this congressional seat and had he not been disqualified for insufficient signatures, he would have been thrown off the ballot for voting in a partisan primary after filing as a Democrat.

Lyras said he doesn’t remember voting in the 2018 Democratic primary.

As for Hagan spending only $17,321.58 during the pre-primary period, she didn’t have to use more from her campaign fund.

The Ohio Freedom Fund is making independent expenditures to help her.

The group — based in Washington, D.C. — paid $75,000 on March 5 to Medium Buying LLC of Columbus to support Hagan and oppose Lyras.

The group’s latest statement of organization with the FEC was filed Sept. 10, with Thomas Datwyler as treasurer. Datwyler has served as treasurer for numerous state and federal campaigns and committees, and was comptroller for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s failed 2016 presidential campaign.

The group was first formed on Nov. 14, 2016, to help then-state Treasurer Josh Mandel in his second run for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Sherrod Brown. Mandel ended up withdrawing from the race because his wife was ill.

But the Ohio Freedom Fund raised $320,000 in 2016 with most coming from dark money groups that don’t have to disclose where it gets its money. It received about $1 million in 2017 with $500,000 coming from Andrew D. Beal, president and CEO of Beal Bank and Beal Aerospace in Plano, Texas, — 48th wealthiest person in the country, according to Forbes.com.

The fund was relatively quiet in 2018 and 2019.

But now it’s supporting Hagan who served as a state representative from March 2011 to December 2018. She lost the 2018 Republican primary for the 16th Congressional District seat to Anthony Gonzalez. She actually lives in the 7th Congressional District. There is no law requiring candidates to live in the district.

If Hagan wins, expect this organization to raise a significant amount of money to challenge Ryan in November. Ryan has never been able to raise large amounts of money for his campaigns and had $137,134 in his fund as of Feb. 26. Imagine the commercials against Ryan this fall.

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