COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci traveled repeatedly aboard a Cleveland strip-club owner’s private plane during his run for Ohio governor without properly reporting the costs of those flights, according to an Associated Press review.
The AP identified about a dozen instances when Renacci was shuttled to gubernatorial campaign events by businessman Don Ksiezyk without reimbursing him for travel costs. That included trips from their hometown of Wadsworth to Cincinnati, Columbus, Zanesville, Dayton and Cleveland between August 2017 and January.
Renacci, who has since dropped his governor bid to run for U.S. Senate, first reported specific payments to Ksiezyk in conjunction with Senate campaign travel. Renacci seeks to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in November.
Campaign finance filings for his governor’s campaign show about $1,600 in expenses apparently associated with the Ksiezyk flights, including to aviation operators and airports. No direct payments were reported to Ksiezyk, who owns Peek-A-Boos and Bug-A-Boos in Cleveland and is a pilot.
Efforts to reach Ksiezyk by phone and email were unsuccessful.
“According to Rep. Renacci, during the governor’s race the campaign reimbursed for fuel and maintenance directly as opposed to the in-kind method that’s used in the Senate race,” Senate campaign spokeswoman Leslie Shedd said. “Both methods are permissible.”
Campaign finance experts said Ohio law requires the value of air travel to be reported separately. Chartering a small private jet starts at about $2,500 an hour, according to online booking sites.
“The best way I could say it, any expenses that you would experience for travel related to your campaign should be fully reflected in the campaign finance report,” said Philip Richter, executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission.
Richter was speaking generically, not directly to Renacci’s situation.
Among gubernatorial campaign stops by Renacci that dovetail with flight activity by Kseizyk’s plane were an appearance at the Muskingum County Fair; a meet-and-greet with Hamilton County Recorder Norbert Nadel in Cincinnati; meetings in Dayton with manufacturing and real estate groups and the local newspaper; and an appearance at Cleveland’s Columbus Day Parade.