By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - The campaign of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun disputed preliminary findings by the Federal Election Commission that revealed $8.5 million in "inappropriate loans" during his 2018 showdown with Democrat Joe Donnelly, prompting Indiana Democrats to call for a criminal probe.

"The draft audit report issued by the FEC’s audit staff nearly two months ago was just that: A draft issued before the campaign committee provided the necessary documentation to clear up the loan issues raised in the report," said Braun Chief of Staff Joshua Kelley in a statement on Thursday. "However, if you have read the documents that the campaign committee has since provided to the FEC or listened to the recent hearing with the FEC Commissioners, it is clear that the final version of the FEC’s audit report will conclude that all the loans fully complied with the law. Sometimes these FEC audits require time to work themselves out; that has been the case here, and we’re not the least bit concerned about how the process will end." 

According to The Daily Beast, FEC auditors found that Braun’s reports show more than $8.5 million in “apparent prohibited loans” to his 2018 campaign. That includes $7 million in direct loans and lines of credit — with no collateral — “that did not appear to be made in the ordinary course of business.” The FEC also “identified two checks from one corporation totaling $1,500,000 that were reported as loans.” 

The Braun campaign blames the violations on the campaign treasurer, Travis Kabrick, who has not responded to inquiries from the Braun campaign as well as the FEC. Kabrick, “was, at least ostensibly, an experienced FEC compliance professional who had worked for many federal candidate committees over many years” according to the Daily Beast. 

According to the draft report, the FEC found seven mistakes or potential campaign finance violations: Misstatement of financial activity; failure to file 48-hour notices of contributions; failure to disclose contributors' occupations and/or name of employer; receipt of apparent prohibited contributions-loans; receipt of contributions in excess of the limit; failure to disclose memo entries and candidate loans; and prohibited candidate personal loan repayments.

The Indiana Democratic Party called for a criminal investigation into alleged campaign finance violations from the Mike Braud For Indiana campaign. INDEM Executive Director Lauren Ganapini said, “It’s clear from the reporting that came out this morning that Mike Braun broke the law and stole a United States Senate seat in 2018. Today, Hoosiers need to ask themselves a sobering question: Do we have an illegitimately elected U.S. senator? Braun used $8.5 million of ‘apparent prohibited loans’ to fuel his campaign – an amount of money that made his campaign much more competitive. Hoosiers deserve answers and the Indiana Democratic Party is calling on all jurisdictions to investigate potential criminality related to Braun’s campaign, businesses, or personal finances. The Department of Justice and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana should determine whether federal laws were broken. The Indiana Attorney General also should look into any wrongdoing with state law, particularly those related to tax records."