FEC probes spending patterns on Kasich 2016 presidential campaign

By Daniel Lippman

The Federal Election Commission is investigating members of former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign for travel-related expense issues, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The inquiry is focused on one of Kasich’s former political consultants, Doug Preisse, and whether Preisse or his firm, Van Meter, Ashbrook and Associates, covered the cost of certain expenses that the campaign should have paid, according to the sources.

The FEC is asking former Kasich campaign staffers for information on trips they took on behalf of Kasich, the campaign and New Day for America, the super PAC that supported Kasich, as well as meetings and other events that they planned or took part in during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. The FEC is also asking how those trips were funded and whether the staffers were paid for their services or reimbursed for travel expenses.

Kasich, who is now out of office after serving two terms as governor of Ohio, is a senior political contributor on CNN and recently published a new book titled: “It’s Up to Us: Ten Little Ways We Can Bring About Big Change.”

When Priesse was asked if he wanted to comment, he said in a text message: “Ha. Nope.” His consulting firm did not respond to a request for comment.

A Kasich spokesman, Jim Lynch, wrote in a text message that “there are no new allegations from what was covered by the media in 2015. What you are describing is not accurate -- at all!”

In 2016, the liberal group American Democracy Legal Fund asked the FEC to investigate whether Kasich had violated federal election laws and regulations by “using official resources for campaign purposes,” the group alleged. ADLF, founded by liberal activist David Brock, said that Kasich and New Day had engaged in campaign activities together, such as shooting a video months before New Day had filed paperwork registering as a super PAC.

One person with direct knowledge of the investigation said that the matters being investigated now by the FEC appear different from the issues in the 2016 complaint.

An FEC spokesperson said the agency can’t comment on open or potential enforcement matters.

The FEC currently lacks a quorum to make major decisions. While its staff can process new complaints and continue investigations already underway, there aren’t enough commissioners for a quorum to vote to start new investigations, dismiss charges or punish offending campaigns.

Some Republicans still hold hard feelings against Kasich for staying in the 2016 primary for so long after his second-place finish in New Hampshire, even after it became clear that he had no path to winning the Republican presidential nomination. By staying in, Kasich may have split the anti-Trump vote enough with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that no one was able to catch up to Donald Trump after a series of early wins. Kasich carried only his home state of Ohio, finishing with the third-most delegates to the GOP convention.