A private donor gave $25,000 to the Boone County Republican Party with a request that the money go to Jessica Neal’s recount bail, according to Boone County Republican Party precinct captain Emily Shelton and Republican member of the Boone County Board of Elections.
“It was a donation made to the GOP with the understanding that this is what the donor wanted us to use it for,” Shelton said.
Neal was the losing candidate in the May Republican primary for the 24th Senate District, which does not include any part of Boone County. The district, currently represented by Republican Wil Schroder, who is not running for election, is made up of Campbell, Pendleton, Bracken, and a small portion of Kenton counties.
Neal finished second in a three-way race narrowly won by Shelley Funke Frommeyer. She will face Democratic and Highland Heights City Councilman Rene Heinrich in November.
Neal, a member of the Campbell County Republican Party’s Election Integrity Committee, pushed conspiracy theories about the Kentucky election and its potential for fraud.
She went to court to seek a recount following her narrow loss where she was asked to pay over $57,000 for the full recount.
The identity of Boone Co.’s donor will not be known until campaign finance reports are released in a few months, but questions have been raised about the amount of the contribution.
“The maximum annual contribution by an individual to an executive committee is $5,000,” said John Steffen, executive director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Individuals can also only give $2,000 to one contestant, or $4,000 per couple.
Neal announced via social media that she had paid the $57,368 needed to continue her recount effort in the race for the 24th Senate District. The recount began Wednesday morning.
“Excited to share with all of you that I posted the $57,368 bond amount to the Campbell County Circuit Court clerk this morning,” Neal wrote on Facebook. “None of this would have been possible without your generous support. Thanks.”
“It was a pretty close race, and I strongly believe in making sure we have a safe election,” Neal said in May of his reasoning for asking for a recount. Secretary of State Michael G. Adams, also a Republican, called Neal’s efforts “frivolous.”
Last month, the state Board of Elections sought to dismiss Neal’s effort, but that motion was denied.
When asked why the private donor didn’t just give the money directly to Neal, Shelton said she questioned herself. She also said she couldn’t reveal who the private donor was because she didn’t know.
“He or she won’t get tax relief because we’re not a 501c3,” Shelton said. “So, I have no idea.”
Boone County Republican Party Chairman Chet Hand and Vice Chairman Doug Bramer declined to comment for this story.
It’s also unclear why the Boone County Republican Party donated money to a recount involving other counties, but the group recently censured Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican, and the group s spoke openly in favor of manual counting of ballots throughout Kentucky.
“WHEREAS Michael Adams, a senior Republican public servant, should be held accountable for publicly disparaging anyone, particularly fellow Republicans, who have taken it upon themselves, at great sacrifice of time and personal expense, to attempt to ‘achieve openness and true voter integrity on behalf of all citizens of the Commonwealth,’ the resolution reads.
As Secretary of State, Adams has spoken out openly against such recounts and is often attacked by groups supporting manual ballot counting.
There is a law that says candidates can receive contributions after an election for recounts and recanvas, but normal contribution limits still apply.
“A candidate, slate, or campaign committee may solicit and accept contributions after the date of a primary election, regular election, or special election to meet necessary expenses which arise after the date of the election associated with electoral contests, recounts, and recanvas of a specific election,” according to Kentucky Revised Statutes 121.150.
But, also under this law, it reads as follows:
“No person shall make any payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money to another person to contribute to any candidate, slate, committee, contributing organization or to anyone on their behalf.”
With Neal paying the recount bond, the four 24th District counties – Pendelton, Bracken, Campbell and part of Kenton – must follow the Order for Recount Proceedings, which states:
“Custody of voting machines, voting materials or voting system, ballots, ballot boxes, and all materials relating to the May 17, 2022 Republican primary from the state’s 24th Senate District (“ primary’) will be transferred to Campbell Circuit Court except for Kenton County,” the order reads, stating that Kenton County will only deliver the nine machines identified to hold ballots cast in this primary.