Where are the financial disclosures?

Two high profile, Trump-backed congressional candidates are among those who have yet to file legally required financial statements

By: - August 5, 2022 3:55 am

DELAWARE, OH — APRIL 23: Madison Gesiotto Gilbert who is running as a republican for election to the U.S. House to represent Ohio’s 13th Congressional District speaks at the Save America Rally featuring former President Donald J. Trump, April 23, 2022, at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, Delaware, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal.)

Update 8/9/2022: since publishing, J.R. Majewski has filed his disclosures for 2021 and 2022. None of the other candidates referenced in this story have done so yet.

A raft of candidates running for Ohio congressional seats this year have so far failed to file financial disclosures with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. The list includes people on both sides of the aisle, but two names stick out — both for the amount they’ve raised and the competitiveness of their races — Donald Trump-endorsed Republicans J.R. Majewski and Madison Gesiotto Gilbert.

Nobody likes paperwork, but when it comes to running for public office, it’s some of the most fundamental blocking and tackling a campaign handles. Getting valid signatures and documents filed at the right place and on time is crucial to making sure a candidate even appears on the ballot in the first place.

Under the Ethics in Government Act, congressional candidates have to file financial disclosures detailing their income, assets and liabilities once they’ve raised or spent $5,000 in a given cycle. The deadline to file those reports was in May.

At this point, nine of the congressional candidates appearing on this year’s ballot in Ohio have not filed. Four of them appear not to have raised the required amount of money. Another three, all Democrats, appear to have cleared the bar without turning in a disclosure.

Tamie Wilson, Craig Swartz and David Esrati are challenging Reps. Jim Jordan, Bob Latta and Mike Turner, respectively. Those three challengers have each raised between $13,000 and $23,000. The congressmen they’re challenging have all raised more than $1 million and are sitting on between $500,000 and $8.3 million in cash on hand.

While those three Democratic challengers measure their fundraising in thousands, the two Republicans who have failed to file — J.R. Majewski and Madison Gesiotto Gilbert — measure theirs in hundreds of thousands. Majewski has cleared half a million dollars and Gilbert is closing in on $1 million.

Still from the music video for “Lets Go Brandon Save America” featuring J360, Savannah Craven and Ohio GOP congressional candidate J.R. Majewski.

Both are also running in races that are far more competitive. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-OH, is the longest serving woman in the history of the U.S. House, but after redistricting, her seat went from safely Democratic to a toss-up. Although she holds a significant cash advantage over Majewski, the GOP challenger who made a name for himself painting pro-Trump messages on his lawn has a legitimate shot at ousting her.

Gilbert is pursuing the seat vacated by Rep. Tim Ryan, D-OH, who is now running for U.S. Senate. She’s facing former state Rep. Emilia Sykes. In terms of fundraising the two are neck and neck, and while the district leans slightly to the left, it’s no gimme for Democrats — especially in a midterm cycle with an unpopular president.

Financial disclosures reveal, in general terms at least, how candidates make money, where they’re employed, how they invest, and what kind of debt they’re carrying. As candidates stake out their positions, these financial details can shed light on why they might adopt a particular posture as well as support — or undermine — their claims.

Neither Majewski nor Gilbert’s campaign responded to requests for comment about their tardy disclosures.

The Ohio Democratic Party, however, was quick to criticize their failure to file. In an emailed statement communications director Matt Keyes argued Ohioans deserve better.

“Extremists J.R. Majewski and Madison Gesiotto Gilbert like to tout out-of-touch conspiracy theories, but here are the facts: they’re both trying to skirt ethics laws by failing to file even the most basic of information about their personal financial background and dealings,” he wrote. “It leaves Ohio voters to wonder: does they have something to hide or are their campaigns not ready for primetime?”

As for the Democratic candidates challenging Reps. Jordan, Latta and Turner, Keyes followed up that, “As soon as we were notified that our candidates had not filed the documents, we reached out to them to rectify the situation, which is happening now.”

Missing the deadline for filing a financial disclosure comes with a $200 fine. According to the Ethics in Government Act, outright failure to file could land you in federal court. Under its provisions, the Attorney General can pursue such cases and the court can levy a civil penalty of any amount it chooses up to $50,000.

Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.



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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.