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Johnson, Wilson campaigns dispute latest ruling

September 27, 2012

LISBON - For the second time in a week, a panel of the Ohio Elections Commission reportedly has found a problem with a statement released by a candidate in the 6th Congressional District race. However, the two sides do not even agree on what statement was determined misleading.

The executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission confirms the Bill Johnson campaign's version of the panel's findings.

Charlie Wilson's campaign said in a press release Wednesday the panel found a statement released by Johnson's campaign last week that Wilson faced possible jail time was "misleading." That statement had been made as part of a press release by the Johnson campaign announcing an OEC panel had found there was probable cause there was a false statement in an advertisement by the Wilson campaign. That statement was that Johnson voted to kill Medicare.

"We have said this all along and today the Ohio Elections Commission panel confirmed it," said JR Starrett, campaign manager for Wilson in a release issued Wednesday. "Congressman Johnson is attempting to distract the voters of East and Southeast Ohio from the truth, he voted to kill the Medicare system, that our seniors know."

When contacted for comment, Johnson spokesman Mark Weaver contended the statement about jail time was not the one the panel voted 2-1 as possibly misleading. Instead Weaver contends the only statement probable cause was concerned about was whether the press release by the Johnson campaign should have said Wilson made a false statement or statements. Weaver said the issue actually deals with whether one false statement made several times over should be singular or plural.

"Wilson's false statement was about an issue most voters care about, Medicare," said Weaver. "Today's vote about Johnson was about more of a grammatical error."

Additionally, Weaver said an organization known as PolitiFact called the statements by Democrats that Republicans voted to end Medicare their 2011 lie of the year. The statement was confirmed on the PolitiFact website.

Weaver said of the four things Wilson's campaign were challenging - the three of them dealing with whether or not it was a TV ad, whether or not it was a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and whether the subpoena was issued - were all thrown out.

Philip Richter, executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission, also relayed from the beginning the arguments between the two sides on Wednesday night. His version confirms the statement in Johnson's release that the panel was concerned about was the use of the word "statements" throughout the press release. No probable cause was found in the other three issues, although Richter said the statement involving the possibility of six months in jail was only by a vote of 2-1.

Richter said with probable cause found, both sides will be asked to a hearing by the full Ohio Elections Commission on Oct. 4 in order to further present their sides about the statements being made.

"I'm sure it's not done," Richter said of the accusations between the two sides in this closely contested race. "There is still a month to go."

Also announced by the Wilson campaign was Wilson's decision to attend a Columbiana County trustees' candidates night in Salem on Oct. 3.



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