Despite shifting dates, Ohio is preparing for a primary that will leave an indelible mark on politics nationwide. 

Rob Portman’s decision to retire in 2021 created an open Senate seat that multiple politicians are competing to fill. With Ohio remaining solid red for the past two presidential elections, and serving as the location for a contentious special election last year, the results of the primary elections are expected to be a referendum on many things.

For Republicans, it will indicate how firm Donald Trump’s grasp is on the Republican Party. For Democrats, whether moderate liberals or the growing progressive vanguard, is the future of electoral success.

Not often talked about in the cyclical grind of party politics are the financial investments and stock trades of candidates. Several GOP Senate candidates have investments in Russia, even as they speak out against war crimes committed by Putin and the Russian military.  

Each candidate for Portman’s seat has submitted a financial disclosure report, documenting every asset, source of income, and transaction that’s occurred in their name. These records are an interesting look into the candidates’ financial lives and raise questions about how these investments could influence their policy positions while causing ethical difficulties if they were to attain high office. 

Republican and pro-Trump candidate Mike Gibbons is an investment banker based in Cleveland. According to a poll conducted by Fox News, Gibbons is the front-runner with 22% of 918 Republican voters saying they would vote for him if the primary were held today, compared to 20% for Mandel. On Gibbons’ campaign website one of the issues listed is National Security. Quoting Reagan’s declaration of “peace through strength,” Gibbons promises to “ensure that our men and women in uniform have the best equipment and training in the world,” and asserts the US must “continue to invest in high-tech weapons systems to make sure our military has the tools they need to win any battle.”

Left unmentioned in these pronouncements are Gibbons’ financial connections to the defense contractors that would help provide those “high tech weapons systems.” According to the financial disclosure report submitted on November 16 last year, Gibbons receives $5,001-$15,000 in dividend or capital gains income from Lockheed Martin stock, itself valued between $100,001-$250,000 dollars.

Similarly, Gibbons also receives $2,501- $5,000 from Northrup Grumman stock, also valued between $100,001-$250,000, and $201-$1,000 in common stock for Raytheon Technologies, valued somewhere between $1,001-$15,000. Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon are among the largest weapons manufacturers in the world, and received $14.1 billion, $72.9 billion, and $20.2 billion dollars in defense contracts for fiscal year 2020.

When contacted about these investments and how Gibbons would manage his finances if elected, Samantha Cotton, senior advisor to the Gibbons campaign, said, “If elected, he will put his assets in a blind trust.” She emphasized that “family” is the cause for Gibbons interest in military spending.

“His son, Ryan, is an active-duty Navy pilot currently deployed overseas. That’s why this issue is important to him,” she said.

Although she may be lagging in the polls, Jane Timken has made headlines by placing herself firmly in the Republican Party’s Trump camp. Consequently, Timken has been consistently skeptical of climate change throughout her campaign, criticizing not only climate policies proposed by Democrats, but also the concept itself, despite 97% of climate scientists agreeing human action is exacerbating global warming.

Joe Biden bows to the altar of climate change and refuses to produce American energy,” tweeted Timken on March 3. “We should stop buying oil from Russia and produce it here in America!”

Such pronouncements are also made on Timken’s website, where she states under the economy tab that she’ll fight against the Democrat’s “radical Green New Deal Agenda,” by “supporting the continued exploration and development of Ohio’s oil and gas resources.”

However, these goals may be complicated by Timken’s financial disclosure report filed on August 13, 2021. Mrs. Timken’s stock portfolio reads like a who’s who of fossil fuel companies. She receives income between $1,001-$2,500 from stock in ExxonMobil, valued at $15,00-$50,000. She also receives $201-$1,000 from stock in Nextera Energy, a Florida-based energy and utility company that, despite claiming to generate “more wind and solar energy than any other company in the world,” also boasts of “significant investments in natural gas pipelines.”

Ward Timken Jr., Jane’s husband and CEO of TimkenSteel Corporation, is even more deeply entrenched in natural gas. Mr. Timken owns stock in Chevron valued between $250,001-$500,000 and earns between $2,501-$5,000 in income from it. Ward also holds stock in U.K.-based Royal Dutch Shell valued at $15,001-$50,000 and ExxonMobil, valued between $100,001-$500,000. No one from the Timken campaign responded to requests for comment.

Examples are endless. GOP state senator Matt Dolan – whose polling numbers have remained largely stagnant throughout the campaign – has been repeatedly critical of public healthcare.

Referring to the Affordable Care Act as a “tool of partisan grift” on his campaign website, Dolan plans to “fight for commonsense healthcare policies,” and called the healthcare industry “vital to our state’s economy and community safety” in a Twitter thread from December of last year. While in the Ohio Senate, he created or supported legislation related to Medicare and Medicaid on many occasions, including introducing a bill to institute cost-sharing requirements for the state’s Medicaid program, and co-sponsoring a bill which would punish insurance providers and pharmacy benefit managers from discriminatory pricing.

Nevertheless, Dolan still owns stock in a series of pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, including pharmaceutical giants Amerisourcebergen and Abbvie, biotech company Biomarin Pharmaceuticals, and healthcare insurance company Cigna, along with pharmaceutical titans Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Opposition to big tech has become a centerpiece of J.D Vance’s campaign, with constant disparaging of companies like Facebook and Google that “censors conservatives and others for daring to have a controversial opinion.” Yet Vance invests in several tech and media platforms of smaller size.

As previously reported by the Wall Street Journal, Vance owns stock in conservative media platform Rumble, valued at $100,001 -$250,000. Vance also owns stock in Altality, an augmented reality technology developer, mobile app manufacturer Foxtrot Ventures, and campus-based marketing firm Flytedesk Inc.

Despite touting the importance of local and national manufacturing jobs, Josh Mandel receives between $1,001-$2,500 from ownership of stock in Amazon, a company that profits from selling 38% of its products made in China. 

No one from the Dolan, Vance, or Mandel campaigns responded to requests for comment. 

As for the Democrats vying for Portman’s vacated seat – progressive Morgan Harper (of Columbus), establishment Dem Tim Ryan of Mahoning Valley, and newcomer Traci Johnson (also of Columbus) – their investments are mostly in mutual funds, such as Blackrock Strategic Income Opportunities Portfolio and Vanguard Developed Markets Index Fund Admiral Shares.

Calls for a ban on members of Congress being allowed to own stocks have become more popular in recent years, with bipartisan support from elected officials giving the movement much-needed momentum.

Many primary candidates have expressed their support for this movement. J.D. Vance, stated his belief that Congress members should be banned from owning stock, and US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) signed a letter in January along with 30 of his colleagues urging Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy “to swiftly bring legislation to prohibit members of Congress from owning or trading stocks.”

Whether such a movement will gain attention in the Ohio the US Congress is yet to be seen. 


Zurie Pope is a reporter, essayist, and columnist, pursuing a bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Cincinnati. His work has appeared in The News Record, Youth Journalism International, Unpublished Magazine, and The Nation. Topics of interest for him include campaign finance, political extremism, and the corrosive effect of corporate influence on the media. As for social media links: Twitter: Instagram: