Braun accused of improperly giving more than $1 million to his 2018 campaign

INDIANAPOLIS — Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun improperly gave more than $1 million to his 2018 campaign, and received contributions in excess of legal limits, according to a federal audit.

A draft report by the Federal Election Commission staff, dated Nov. 3, states that Braun’s campaign overstated receipts and disbursements by more than $6 million, and improperly received $1.5 million from Meyer Distributing, an auto-parts distributor owned by Braun that were reported as loans.

Braun was president of Meyer Distributing when the company issued two checks in October of 2018 to Braun’s campaign.

The audit found Braun’s campaign did not repay the $1.5 million, but reported $1.25 million as a contribution from Braun on the disclosure reported and reported the remaining $250,000 as an outstanding loan balance.

Political campaigns are prohibited under federal law from accepting contributions from the general treasury funds of corporations.

Braun defeated incumbent Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, to win the seat in one of the nation’s most hotly contested races.

The 57-page report, called a draft final audit report, was submitted to the Federal Election Commissioners, who can take action on the findings. The report did not spell out possible outcomes.

A spokeswoman for Braun’s Senate office did not immediately respond to IBJ. But the FEC staff report includes a 10-page response from the Braun campaign, which blames many of the problems on its former treasurer, Travis Kabrick.

The campaign said it had hired Kabrick 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.

“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),” the Braun campaign wrote to the FEC. “He ultimately vanished, and he has not been able to be located since the end of 2018.”

The campaign said it retained a new treasurer, who “immediately began to uncover various accounting and reporting problems” while attempting to prepare the campaign’s year-end report in 2018.

The new treasurer began to correct mistakes, errors, and other problems in the committee’s accounts and reports “long prior to the commencement of this FEC audit,” the campaign wrote to the FEC.

The Braun campaign requested a hearing before the FEC, which was apparently held on Nov. 10.

The draft report also found apparent prohibited loans and lines of credit totaling $8.55 million, including five loans and 11 lines of credit from financial institutions that did not appear to be made in the ordinary course of business, because they were not made on a basis that assured repayment, the report said.

For the complete story, see Saturday’s Republic.