Political consultant accuses business partner of theft

Two high-profile Ohio political consultants are embroiled in a civil lawsuit over who is entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in casino gambling revenues.

Ian James, who runs a petition gathering company, is suing Rex Elsass, who runs a Republican ad placement and consulting firm, in Delaware County Common Pleas Court.

According to the suit, James and Elsass formed a joint venture while working on the statewide casino gambling issue in 2009. The venture agreed to forego their immediate billings for a chance to be paid much more if the issue passed, which it did.

Now, Elsass and James are fighting over money.

James is accusing Elsass of money laundering, theft, telecommunications fraud and improperly taking over the joint venture and filing amended tax returns.

“As you can imagine, we think this suit is baseless and without merit and, quite frankly, it’s ridiculous,” said Jeffrey Lipps, attorney for Elsass. He said Elsass has been gracious and generous in his financial dealings with James and even bailed him out when James was in financial dire straits.

“We are investigating a strong counter-suit and we’re looking forward to swift and full vindication when this is over,” Lipps said.

James referred questions to his attorney, who could not be reached for comment.

Ohioans may not know it, but they’ve seen the political work done by James and Elsass. James’ firm gathered petitions for the casino gambling issue and the referendum on Senate Bill 5, the anti-collective bargaining bill. He currently is gathering signatures to put the gay marriage issue before voters again.

Elsass has worked as a political and media consultant for Gov. John Kasich, former GOP presidential contenders Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann, and former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who lost a Senate bid last year after making offensive comments about rape.