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You'll be hearing from my lawyer…

By PA

Fort Wayne Reader

2007-06-05


Under just about any other circumstance, GOP Mayoral candidate Matt Kelty has a glib gift of gab that is the envy of most politicians. His warm and wide smile, affable personality and his ability to think on his feet are all big plusses on the campaign trail.

However, under the hot glare of TV lights and cameras, the probing questions of local news reporters and the scrutiny of the Allen County Election Board, the public glimpsed a still-smiling but far more tight-lipped Matt Kelty as he faced queries about his campaign finance reports. Instead, Kelty let his lawyer do most of the talking.

That lawyer is Terre Haute-based James Bopp, Jr. Bopp is considered one of the nation’s foremost legal experts on campaign finance laws and he says he’s representing both the Kelty For Mayor Campaign as well as Kelty personally as the Allen County Election Board investigates whether Kelty did anything improper or illegal in reporting a large loan to his campaign.

At issue is $150,000 in campaign funds Kelty used in his Republican primary victory. In his initial campaign finance reports, Kelty originally claimed that the bulk of that money was a personal loan from Kelty himself to his election effort. While there were casual questions on the street about how Kelty could afford to give that kind of loan, the media took him at his word. Surprisingly, it was Kelty’s own party that pressed the issue and asked him for more information about the loan. Kelty complied and the firestorm began.

The Kelty loan actually turned out to be a loan to Kelty. $140,000 of the amount came from Kelty-backer Fred Rost. The other $10,000 came from Steve and (Kelty campaign manager) Glenna Jehl. Both loaned the money to Kelty, who in turn, loaned the money to his campaign.

All perfectly legal and above board, according to Bopp. In fact, Bopp touted Kelty as going above and beyond the finance reporting requirements. Bopp made his arguments

“The purpose (of this news conference) was to report on whether (Matt) complied with the law,” Bopp said. And Bopp explained, in sometimes mind-numbingly exhaustive detail, that Kelty followed the law in reporting the money as a personal loan to his campaign.

The Bopp-Kelty news conference came one day before the Kelty for Mayor Committee was to turn over documents requested by the Allen County Election Board. The board wanted, among other items, copies of promissory notes and other paperwork documenting the terms of the loans from Rost and the Jehls. The Kelty campaign, which made some of those documents available to the media at the news conference, was expected to turn over the requested materials to the election board.

As of FWR’s press deadline, Kelty hadn’t been formally charged with anything, and there is little reason to doubt Bopp’s assertions that Kelty followed the law.

The question will be whether the public views the Kelty/Rost/Jehl loans as a shell game to avoid transparency and disclosure, or just an honest mistake triggered by confusing election finance laws.

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