Cincinnati Enquirer: Rep. Steve Chabot’s campaign has paid son-in-law’s firm more than $150,000 for web consulting
Rep. Steve Chabot’s campaign has paid his son-in-law’s company more than $150,000 for website design and other Internet services since 2011.
Such transactions though legal, smack of self-dealing, according to good governance advocates.
Kevin Bischof, who married Chabot’s daughter Erica in 2006, runs a consulting firm called Right Turn Design. On his LinkedIn page, Bischof says he started the company in 2010 as “a premier new media partner for conservative campaigns and organizations.”
Chabot, a Westwood Republican, began using Right Turn Design soon after Bischof launched the firm, paying out between $40,000 and $58,000 for each two-year election cycle, according to campaign finance reports. Right Turn Design has earned Internet consulting fees from the congressman’s re-election account, as well as from Chabot’s leadership PAC, called WinNovember.
So far this year, Chabot’s campaign has paid Right Turn Design about $11,000, records show.
Good government advocates say it smacks of nepotism and self-dealing, although it’s also perfectly legal and quite common. The money comes from donors, not taxpayers.
“The rules allow candidates to engage in these kinds of self-dealing transactions,” said Meredith McGehee, chief of policy at Issue One, a nonprofit group that advocates for stronger ethics and campaign finance rules. She said lawmakers’ campaigns are often “a family and friends affair.”
Right Turn Design’s own website is a bare-bones landing page with a phone number, an email address, and little else. Chabot’s campaign website — designed by Bischof — is more sophisticated, though not a tech-savvy standout.
Several experts consulted by The Enquirer said the site is fine from a technical standpoint, though outdated and a bit clunky.
“It looks like it was designed 5 or 10 years ago. It’s your plain, boring site from 2010,” said Rob Haggart, a web designer based in New York.
The congressman’s leadership PAC, started in 2012 but apparently inactive now, has paid Bischof’s firm about $23,000 over three election cycles. Chabot promoted it in a 2012 blog, but the PAC’s website currently just says “coming soon.”
Bischof’s political client list is equally minimal; Chabot is the firm’s only current congressional client, according to a search of federal campaign records.
McGehee, of Issue One, said Bischof’s scant campaign work seemed like a “red flag” for questionable work.
“I would describe this as the epitome of a self-dealing transaction,” she said.