Fred Rost, 50, was a name the public rarely saw until it was revealed this year that he had commissioned and paid for a poll on Fort Wayne’s Harrison Square project – a poll used by Republican mayoral candidate Matt Kelty without revealing its source.
But the attention received then was nothing compared to when it was revealed that a $148,000 loan to Kelty’s campaign that Kelty originally reported as coming from himself had been financed by a $150,000 loan from Rost.
Now, the Allen County Election Board is set to decide June 19 on whether the reporting of the loan violated campaign finance laws, and the board’s decision could lead to a criminal investigation.
Combined with more than $12,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, Rost was the source of more than six out of every 10 dollars Kelty’s campaign collected. Rost’s position as president of the Allen County Right to Life Committee only added to the debate.
Rost thought he was supporting a candidate as a private citizen. Now his name is in the news nearly every day.
“We’re also private citizens, … and here I’m sacrificing myself to the media to support a candidate,” Rost said. “I’m not quite sure I understand it all.” . . . .
The news of Rost being behind the bulk of Kelty’s campaign funds set off a host of chatter on political blogs across the state, with many on the left seeing some conspiracy between the secret funding, Rost’s position as board president for the Allen County Right to Life Committee, the group’s political action committee’s endorsement of Kelty and Kelty’s strong pro-life stance. Rost sees only a private citizen supporting a candidate.
“I don’t know what conspiracy there could be with a pro-family, pro-life group,” Rost said. “If I’m the nexus between that, not sure what they’re thinking. There’s no better cause than the pro-family, pro-life group.”
Rost is in his second term as board president at Allen County Right to Life, and executive director Cathie Humbarger said Rost has never displayed anything other than uprightness. Ursula Rost is also a Right to Life board member.
“Fred is a man of integrity and honesty, and it’s a privilege to work with him,” Humbarger said.
“Ursula is also committed to the cause, and I have nothing but the highest regard for both of them as individuals and as a couple.”
“He is a remarkably good, he is a great American,” Kelty said. “He has proven himself to me to be trustworthy, encouraging, and reliable.”
As Stockman's story notes, Rost is an executive with a major defense contractor, Sierra Nevada. What he doesn't mention is that a federal investigation is underway into consulting fees that the company funnelled to Dawn Gibbons, the wife of Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, according to a Wall Street Journal report earlier this year. Gov. Gibbons was a congressman at the time his wife was a paid consultant for the company and he was assisting it in obtaining a no-bid contract from the Defense Department.
Rost appears to be whining about the attention that has been focused on him. “We’re also private citizens, … and here I’m sacrificing myself to the media to support a candidate,” Rost said to Stockman. “I’m not quite sure I understand it all.” If Rost wants to bankroll a candidate for public office, he should understand he's going to be scrutinized. In this case, his and Kelty's initial decision to hide the extent of his financial support has only heightened that scrutiny. It's hard to empathize with Rost under these circumstances.
Allen Co. Republicans would be wise to dump Kelty before it's too late. The GOP's chances of recapturing the mayor's office were high going into this election. Kelty's serious ethical and legal problems have turned a cake walk into a horse race.