COLUMBUS, Ohio—Representative Candice Keller (R-Middletown) has never shied away from expressing how she feels about abortion.

“Every child has the right not to be killed,” Keller said.

  • Ethics complaint filed against Rep. Candice Keller
  • Dems say she co-sponsored a bill that would line her own pockets
  • Keller says Dems are just trying to tarnish her reputation

She’s even gone so far as to mix her public life and personal life for the cause—from helping pass the Heartbeat Bill to directing a pregnancy crisis center in Butler County.

“This battle of life has been about the courage of our convictions, and without the courage of our convictions, none of us should serve in the legislature,” said Keller.

But now, Butler County Democrats are calling for an ethics investigation into whether those convictions could be self-dealing.

That’s because Keller initially co-sponsored a bill that would give a 50% refundable tax credit on any donation made to a pregnancy crisis center—like the one she runs.

“You should not be pushing legislation that actually leads to dollars that go into your own pocket, and that’s what she’s done here,” said David Pepper, chairman, Ohio Democratic Party.

According to financial disclosures and IRS documents, Keller rakes in between $50,000 and $99,000 annually for running the community pregnancy center.

But in 2017, her center saw a $98,000 drop in revenue.

Democrats say this bill would serve as a shot in the arm for cash flow to her center, and herself.

“Major conflict of interest… clearly self-dealing, and clearly anybody who’s been around for any time at all knows you should recuse yourself from,” said Pepper.

Keller says she has recused herself, adding in a statement:

“Here again we find another example of why so many are disgusted by today’s politics. While Ohioans are concerned about their child’s education or a family member suffering addiction, the Ohio Democratic Party is out creating a diversion. They’re trying to tarnish my reputation simply because I cosponsored a bill important to my constituents, HB 297.” 

“I have informed Speaker Larry Householder that I will be abstaining from further participation with this bill as it goes through the legislative process,” Keller said.

But Democrats say vowing not to vote on the bill is too little, too late.

“This is a classic the horse is out of the barn,” said Brian Hester, Butler County Democratic Party. “By recusing herself, she’s admitting that she was wrong, that this was a conflict of interest, but the damage has already been done. That just shows that this was, in fact, an ethics violation.”

Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio says the line between conviction and connection should be a clear one.

“We want legislators who are committed to advancing reforms they believe in, but they need to be very careful not to promote their pet projects,” said Turcer.

Whether or not the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee takes up the case remains to be seen.

That bill is expected to see movement in the legislature this fall.

Other lawmakers have faced similar conflicts, including Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), who is a partial owner of the Cleveland Indians.

He has vowed to abstain from voting on any bills dealing with professional sports.