As it turns out, Tom Brinkman Jr. plans on running for statewide office. He just doesn't know which one yet.
That's the explanation being offered for Brinkman's recent claim on a mass e-mail invitation that the $50 cost to attend an anti-Obama event could be deducted from taxes as a campaign donation.
Brinkman recently distributed the e-mail inviting people to hear a March 16 speech by attorney Chris Finney, who would talk about Organizing for America. That's the community organizing project managed by the Democratic National Committee, which is designed to mobilize people to support President Obama's agenda.
Brinkman and Finney are leaders of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), an ultra-conservative group. Brinkman is a former state representative who unsuccessfully ran for Hamilton County auditor last year.
In the e-mail, Brinkman wrote, “The costs for the event (hall rental, food and drinks and advertising) are covered by your $50 contribution to Brinkman Campaign Committee. This Contribution qualifies for the Ohio Political Contribution Tax Credit and you will receive all $50 back as a tax credit. Thus, the event is FREE.”
The comment prompted Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, who's also an attorney, to write Finney and dispute Brinkman's claim.
Burke wrote, “You are about to present a lecture against what you describe as illegal conduct, but the invitation itself asks the supporters of the event to engage in illegal conduct and tax fraud … contributions to candidates for county auditor or any other county office do not qualify for tax credits.”
As it turns out, however, Brinkman's campaign fund is prospective, not retrospective in nature.
“I made that comment because I assumed he was talking about his campaign committee for county auditor, contributions to which do not qualify for a tax credit,” Burke said. “I did not at that time realize that he had filed a new designation of campaign treasurer with the Secretary of State's Office indicating that he was a candidate for an 'undecided statewide office.' That being the case, it is possible that donations to his campaign committee may qualify for a $50 tax credit.”
That may be, but it seems to raise more questions than it answers.
Why, exactly, would someone open a campaign committee for an “undecided” office? What happens to donations if the potential candidate decides not to run? And if that happens, can that person transfer the cash to pay off debts from a previous campaign?
CityBeat will be asking those questions to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office, and will let you know what we find out.
Meanwhile, it seems to me I could open a campaign committee now, then use donations to underwrite my Memorial Day backyard barbecue. Sounds like a thoroughly legal, if unethical, plan.