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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, September 04, 2018 8:10 pm

Campaigns of Banks, Tritch spar over 'drag' fundraiser

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The campaign of U.S. Rep. Jim Banks has threatened to file an ethics complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Democratic challenger Courtney Tritch for accepting money at a fundraising event that featured female impersonators and crossdressers.

But Tritch's campaign said the event violated no FEC rules and accused Banks of demonstrating "clear homophobia."

Banks' campaign on Tuesday emailed to The Journal Gazette a link to a video from the event, billed on Facebook as "The Queen's Court: Campaigning is a DRAG." The fundraiser was Saturday night at After Dark Nightclub in Fort Wayne.

"Not only is this video deeply disturbing and offensive but it clearly shows Democrat Courtney Tritch illegally accepting undocumented cash campaign donations while she dances on stage with a drag queen," Steve Justus, campaign manager for Banks, R-3rd, said in a statement.

"We are exploring FEC violations and looking at filing a complaint. In the meantime, Ms. Tritch may want to consider apologizing for this charade to the northeastern Indiana families she’s campaigning to represent," Justus said.

The video link shows several audience members giving what appear to be paper currency to Tritch while she dances on a stage. She also is shown going into the audience to collect more bills.

David Myles, Tritch's campaign manager, said in an email that the event was "hosted by voters in the 3rd District" and that it "followed FEC regulations." 

"What is disturbing though is the clear homophobia demonstrated by Rep. Banks," Myles said. "In asking for an apology to the families of the 3rd District, he is stating that the LGBTQ community is excluded from his idea of family. If he would like to discuss his views on LGBTQ rights, as well as his positions on affordable health care, strong public schools, and high-wage jobs, he can agree to debate Courtney in person this fall, as we’ve requested multiple times."

According to the FEC, candidates and their campaigns do not have to keep records identifying donation amounts, dates and contributor names and addresses for gifts of $50 or less. The FEC says campaigns must keep records of the name and date of a fundraising event and the total amount of money received at the event.

Records related to Tritch's fundraiser would be included with the third-quarter campaign finance report she files with the FEC.