By JO INGLES
The Butler County Democratic Party wants the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee, the state panel that deals with ethical violation of lawmakers, to investigate Republican Rep. Candice Keller, saying she potentially violated ethics rules by sponsoring a bill which would directly benefit an anti-abortion women’s health center she runs in southwest Ohio.
The bill at the center of the complaint would benefit organizations that are often called crisis pregnancy centers. They do not provide abortions or refer women for the procedure but instead explain other options. Opponents of these centers say they are “fake” medical clinics that shame women from getting abortions.
Republican State Rep. Candice Keller (R-Middletown) is a co-sponsor of the bill. She has said she will recuse herself from the legislative process for the bill that would provide a 50 percent refundable tax credit for donations made to non-profit pregnancy centers. But Butler County Democratic Party Director Brian Hester says the horse is already out of the barn now.
“The fact that she, having now been caught and publicly called out on it, says she doesn’t intend to continue to violating the law, doesn’t change the fact that her initial action was a violation,” Hester says.
In her updated written statement to the Statehouse News Bureau this afternoon, Keller calls the complaint a political distraction.
Federal tax filings show Keller’s center has lost money in recent years. Hester thinks Keller and her pregnancy center would benefit financially from the bill.
Ohio’s Legislative Inspector General, Tony Bledsoe, says he advised Keller to abstain from voting on the bill after she asked him for his opinion last month.