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Sen. Mike Braun's campaign accused by FEC of violating campaign finance laws

Chief of staff: ‘Not the least bit concerned’
Mike Braun
Posted at 3:45 PM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 20:33:58-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Sen. Mike Braun's office expressed confidence on Thursday that he will be cleared after a draft audit report filed by the Federal Election Commission said he violated numerous campaign finance laws during his successful 2018 run for U.S. Senate.

The 57-page document dated Nov. 3 said Braun's campaign received more than $8.5 million in prohibited loans and lines of credit.

The total included five loans and 11 lines of credit from financial institutions totaling more than $7 million “that did not appear to be made in the ordinary course of business,” according to the draft audit report.

“These loans were not made on a basis that assured repayment and, therefore, appeared to be prohibited contributions from financial institutions,” the draft audit report said.

Auditors also found two checks from Meyer Distributing totaling $1.5 million that were written while Braun served as president of the Jasper-based auto parts distributor.

The $1.5 million amount was reported as a loan, which the campaign did not repay, according to the draft audit report. It said Mike Braun for Indiana reported $1.25 million as a contribution from the candidate on disclosure reports and reported the remaining $250,000 as an outstanding loan balance.

Federal law prohibits corporations from using general treasury funds to make contributions to political candidates.

The auditors also found the campaign overstated receipts and disbursements by nearly $6.3 million each.

The draft audit report includes a response from Braun’s campaign, which blames the situation on its former treasurer, Travis Kabrick.

“In 2017, the Committee hired the former treasurer to serve as its treasurer because he was, at least ostensibly, an experienced FEC compliance professional who had worked for many federal candidate committees over many years,” the campaign said in the report.

However, the campaign contended, “at some point during the 2018 election cycle this individual began making mistakes and failing to perform his services as warranted (and for which he was being paid). He ultimately vanished, and he has not been able to be located since the end of 2018.”

On Thursday, though, Roger Sollenberger, a politics reporter with the Daily Beast, reported he was able to find Kabrick “within minutes.”

“It only took The Daily Beast minutes to identify and locate the man. His mother said in a phone call that she would pass along a request for comment,” Sollenberger wrote.

Joshua Kelley, Braun's chief of staff and senior political advisor, said in an emailed statement to WRTV that the senator and his staff are not concerned and are waiting for the process to play itself out.

“The DRAFT audit report issued by the FEC’s audit staff nearly two months ago was just that: a draft issued before the campaign committee provided the necessary documentation to clear up the loan issues raised in the report,” Kelley wrote.

“However, if you have read the documents that the campaign committee has since provided to the FEC or listened to the recent hearing with the FEC Commissioners, it is clear that the final version of the FEC’s audit report will conclude that all the loans fully complied with the law. Sometimes these FEC audits require time to work themselves out; that has been the case here, and we’re not the least bit concerned about how the process will end.”

The draft audit report was initially provided to Mike Braun for Indiana on Sept. 16. The campaign requested a hearing that was scheduled to take place Nov. 10.

Mike Schmuhl, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, said in a statement that it is “a sad day for the integrity of our elections in the Hoosier State” and called on the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana to determine whether federal laws were broken.

In 2018, Braun defeated former U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer to win Indiana’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate. He beat Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly in the general election.