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Ohio Democrats launch ad campaign against Renacci on Tax Day

Ohio Democrats launch ad campaign against Renacci on Tax Day
© Greg Nash

The Ohio Democratic Party is launching a five-figure digital ad campaign targeting Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciOhio is suddenly a 2020 battleground Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Medicare for All won't deliver what Democrats promise MORE (R-Ohio), the leading GOP candidate to challenge Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell Brown Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Dems to focus on issues, not character, at Barrett hearings Mnuchin says he and Pelosi have agreed to restart coronavirus stimulus talks MORE (D-Ohio) in the 2018 midterms, over a past tax dispute.

The ad campaign, which coincides with Tuesday’s tax-filing deadline, features a video game at JumpinJimsTaxHurdles.com where an animated Renacci jumps over obstacles to dodge taxes. The game will be displayed on nonskippable YouTube, banner and Twitter ads.

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The tax claim dates back to a dispute in 2000 between Renacci and the Ohio Department of Taxation. His family’s tax returns from that year claimed they lost nearly $250,000, but a state auditor said that they made about $13.7 million.

Renacci and his wife paid $1.4 million in back taxes in addition to a penalty of nearly $360,000. But he pushed back against the penalty, which he’s framed as fighting for tax fairness. He was eventually granted a refund for that penalty in a 2016 Ohio Supreme Court ruling.

“Congressman Jim Renacci has a troubling history of bending and exploiting the rules to get ahead,” said Lara Sisselman, spokeswoman for the Ohio Democratic Party.

“There’s a clear pattern between his alleged straw donor scheme, the fact he was registered lobbyist while serving in Congress, and his refusal to pay taxes on nearly $14 million in income. Congressman Renacci looks out for himself, not Ohio’s best interests.”

It’s an attack that has resurfaced from Renacci’s 2010 and 2012 runs for Congress.

In 2010, Renacci sued the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union for ads about the tax dispute. Two years later, his Democratic opponent launched a similar ad accusing him of "trying to avoid paying taxes on nearly $14 million that he made."

Renacci spokeswoman Brittany Martinez responded to the ads by noting the state Supreme Court had ruled unanimously in Renacci's favor.

"If the Ohio Democratic Party spent less time playing video games, they might have avoided the embarrassment of regurgitating the same sham attacks on Jim Renacci's decision to fight for tax fairness they peddled in 2010, which the Ohio Supreme Court has since unanimously ruled in Jim Renacci's favor," Martinez said.

"They'll say anything to distract voters from Sherrod Brown's out-of-touch record as one the most liberal politicians in America and a shill for the Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA MORE wing of the Democratic Party."

Renacci is the top candidate for the Republican nomination to run for Senate but faces a primary challenge from businessman Mike Gibbons. The primary is on May 8.

Brown is one of 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in a state that President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE won in 2016. Ohio went for Trump by 8 points, but even with the state trending towards Republicans, Democrats are feeling confident about Brown’s chances to hold the seat.

--Updated at 11:53 a.m.