Editor’s Note: This is the first of three stories examining Gov. Mike DeWine’s use of pay-to-play when he was attorney general and how the Ohio Republican Party funnels money from donors to individual candidates. This series also will examine the relationship between the party, DeWine and former House Speaker Larry Householder to FirstEnergy.
Mike DeWine, as former Ohio attorney general, often awarded no-bid contracts to lawyers and collections agencies to do state work. Many of those chosen vendors also happened to be his campaign donors.
The Dayton Daily News in July 2014 reported on the connections between Attorney General DeWine’s awarding of collections contracts to vendors who also just happened to be campaign donors.
Hudson collections company CELCO Ltd., owned by Peter Spitalieri, was formed on April 11, 2012, two days before then-Attorney General DeWine’s office issued an request for proposal (RFP) for collections agencies to do state work, the newspaper said. Spitalieri also owns PASCO Group.
Since 2010, 119 outside attorneys handling debt collection for the attorney general, their firms and their close family members contributed $1.38 million to the campaigns of DeWine, his son Pat DeWine, then an appeals judge and now a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, as well as the Ohio Republican Party.
DeWine met frequently with long-time Summit County Republican Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff and other donors, including Spitalieri, who was a donor.
In the spring of 2010, Validati, a division of PASCO, was awarded the contract with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to monitor compliance of the state’s motor vehicle financial responsibility laws. The program launched August 4, 2010.
The Ohio Star issued a FOIA request with the Ohio Department of Public Safety for a copy of the contract.
The department said:
Upon completion of our research, it was determined that the Ohio Department of Public Safety does not have any executed contracts with the entities in your request. However, a contract associated with Pasco/Validati was administered by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). The contract expired at the end of August 2015.
The Star made the same request to DAS, but as of August 16 had not heard back from the department other than an acknowledgment it had received the FOIA.
The Daily News in January 2014 reported on other allegations of pay-to-play in Attorney General DeWine’s office concerning an advisory panel.
The Daily News examination found that the law firms on the panels tend to be the ones who get the work. Of the 27 law firms assigned to the cases that pay on contingency, 19 serve on DeWine’s panel. Most of them also contributed via PACs or employees to the Ohio GOP, Mike DeWine and/or Pat DeWine — more than $1.3 million from 2010 to 2013. About half of the donations came from firms whose main office is outside Ohio.
The Ohio Republican Party, which received the bulk of the campaign contributions from firms seeking outside work with DeWine’s office, has funneled $977,537 to DeWine’s campaign fund since he took over as AG in January 2011.
Tomorrow’s story: Funneling money, and connections to FirstEnergy.
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