The mysterious, unregistered "Victory Ohio Super PAC" that made robocalls to thousands of Ohio residents before a congressional primary election last week is the subject of a preliminary review by the local U.S. Attorney and the FBI. The probe comes after David Krikorian, who lost the Democratic primary in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District by 59 votes, asked authorities to look into the group on the grounds that it may have swung the March 6 election.
Krikorian, in a letter to U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart, said he wants to hold the Victory Ohio Super PAC "accountable for what appears to be a clear violation of the law." Super PACs are required to register with the Federal Election Commission, and anyone spending more than $1,000 to influence a federal election is supposed to file a report. The FEC has no reports from the "Victory Ohio Super PAC" on file.
Fred Alverson, a spokesman for Stewart, said the FBI had been contacted and his office was looking into the allegations raised in the letter. "We're not allowed to make any sort of immediate judgment there," Alverson said, "but certainly the situation described seems a little peculiar, to say the least."
Krikorian said he doesn't believe the winner of the Democratic primary, truck driver William Smith, had anything to do with the robocalls. But he has long tangled with Rep. Jean Schmidt, the Republican who he might have faced in the general election had she not also lost her primary, over her ties to Turkish groups. has long tangled with Rep. Jean Schmidt, a Republican, over her ties to Turkish groups. Krikorian has suggested that Schmidt or Turkish groups may have played some role in the election eve robocalls. A Schmidt spokesman denied any involvement in the calls. Oddly, Schmidt was having lunch in Washington with the Turkish ambassador on Election Day, instead of campaigning, according to Politico.
Local Democratic party officials and activists have also raised another possibility -- that the robocalls were somehow tied to a controversial plan to build a uranium enrichment facility in the district. Krikorian had questioned whether the facility would create as many jobs as proponents claimed.
The robocalls, however, may not have violated federal law, which only requires groups that spend more than $1,000 on an election to file with the FEC. Advertisements for automated calling services online suggest that robocalls can be had for as little a penny apiece. At 3 cents a call, then, the fake Super PAC at the center of the controversy could have reached as many as 30,000 households without running afoul of the law.
"At the end of the day, it may well be that somebody spent $999, but I don't know," said Caleb Faux, executive director of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. "We just think it's appropriate for there to be a federal investigation of that question, because if this kind of stuff can go on, and there's no transparency, who knows who could be trying to influence congressional races. It could be people from other parts of the world and we wouldn't know."
"Somebody with subpoena power needs to get access to the phone records," Faux said.
Click play below for audio of one of the "Victory Ohio Super PAC" phone calls provided to HuffPost by Krikorian. Know anything about the group? Email reporter Matt Sledge at firstname.lastname@example.org.