The FBI has now launched two investigations involving the scandal-ridden Republican Statehouse, one into campaign donations associated with for-profit charter schools and the other into the former Republican House Speaker’s ties to the predatory payday lending industry.
FBI raids house, storage unit of former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger.
Only weeks after Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned in disgrace, the FBI raided his home and storage unit. House Republicans canceled legislative session as the Statehouse was thrown into chaos:
- "I couldn't think of a better way to start my Saturday than with my good friend, @Troy_Balderson. It was a great turnout for the Balderson campaign kickoff. I have no doubt that Troy is the best man for the job and know he will do great things for the 12th congressional district." -- (Cliff Rosenberger)
- After 15 years in the Ohio House, having worked his way up from low-level page to chief of staff for the speaker, Mike Dittoe is stepping down…. Dittoe said he also will take over as campaign manager for state Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, who is running for the 12th District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township. -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- Today, GOPAC announced its 2014 Class of Emerging Leaders.... Ohio State Senator Troy Balderson -- (GOPAC)
- One trip that is of interest to the FBI: In August, Rosenberger joined five GOP leaders from other states on a four-day trip to London, paid for by the conservative GOPAC Education Fund's Institute for Leadership Development. Also on the trip: Rep. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, who attended as a guest of Rosenberger, GOPAC Executive Director Jessica Curtis said. -- (Cincinnati Enquirer)
- In 2003, legislation sponsored by then Rep. Jon Husted, now the secretary of state, created a buffer between the Department of Education and charter schools by placing control in the hands of “sponsors,” or “authorizers,” who generally were school-choice advocates. -- (Akron Beacon Journal)
- Husted also played a key role in ending the Legislative Office of Education Oversight, which wrote reports on education topics. One of its last reports, released shortly before the office was killed off in a budget bill in mid-2005, said online schools spend nearly 40 percent less and many of their students were not taking required proficiency and achievement tests. -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- A Democrat campaigning for Ohio governor said Wednesday that it was "highly inappropriate" for the state's attorney general — a Republican gubernatorial candidate — to call the GOP House Speaker amid talk of an FBI investigation into the speaker's activities. -- (Associated Press)
- Attorney General Mike DeWine described the call as one made merely out of concern for the probe's impact on House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, but his Democratic gubernatorial rival, Richard Cordray, said DeWine's motives are not clear. [...] -- (Associated Press)
- “The 36-year-old Republican, who's term-limited, resigned Tuesday, effective May 1. Rosenberger said that while he believes all of his actions as speaker have been "ethical and lawful," he understands the inquiry could take time to resolve and become a distraction. -- (Associated Press)
- “At issue for Cordray and other Democrats on Wednesday was a call that DeWine made to Rosenberger after reading Friday's news account revealing the possible FBI inquiry. DeWine said earlier that he urged the lawmaker to resign if Rosenberger had engaged in any wrongdoing, but that Rosenberger told him he'd done nothing wrong. -- (Associated Press)
- In doling out lucrative collections contracts, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine passed over more experienced vendors in favor of a friend’s new collections agency. -- (Dayton Daily News)
- His campaign and the state Republican Party received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from collectors as they sought work from the state. -- (Dayton Daily News)
- And DeWine involved his former fundraiser and other politically connected people in a process that is supposed to independent from political influence. -- (Dayton Daily News)
- Those are the findings of a Dayton Daily News investigation that raises questions about whether some vendors used campaign dollars to land contracts potentially worth millions of dollars. [...] -- (Dayton Daily News)
- Meanwhile, some of the companies bidding for that work made campaign contributions just as hiring decisions were being made. In the two months before DeWine announced his most recent picks for outside debt collectors, the attorneys and debt agencies seeking work poured more than $215,000 into the campaign accounts of DeWine and the Ohio Republican Party. -- (Dayton Daily News)
- There also appears to be a nexus between how much debt collectors earn and the size of their contributions, though some collectors did not make any campaign contributions. -- (Dayton Daily News)
- Since 2010, the pool of 119 outside attorneys handling debt collection for DeWine, their firms and their close family members contributed $1.38 million to the campaign coffers of Mike DeWine, his son Pat DeWine, who is a First District Court of Appeals judge, and the Ohio GOP. -- (Dayton Daily News)
- Of the 30 collections attorneys who contributed more than $10,000 to that total, the average annual earnings on debt collection work was $796,500 between 2011 and 2013. Of the 89 who contributed less than $10,000, the average earnings during that time period were $192,000. -- (Dayton Daily News)
- Debt collectors are paid a percentage of what they recover. It’s at the discretion of the administration how many and what kind of accounts are assigned to each vendor and attorney. [...] -- (Dayton Daily News)
- Records show DeWine has been actively involved in the debt collection process. A review of his calendar shows he has met routinely with debt collection attorneys, vendors and their lobbyists, many of them with close ties to DeWine’s political operation. -- (Dayton Daily News)
- ECOT also received the Ohio Auditor of State Award of Distinction for the fiscal years ended June 30, 2012, 2013 and 2015. -- (OhioAuditor.gov)
- Yost, the Ohio auditor, over the years has received campaign donations from companies and people affiliated with ECOT, totaling at least $29,000. And for some of that time, Yost's office was checking the school system's books. -- (Cleveland.com)
- Yost’s office had an opportunity in 2014 to take a closer look at how ECOT operates when a school employee made allegations that ECOT was cooking its attendance books. -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- ECOT alerted Yost’s office in a letter that Dana Comparetto, then the school’s director of social services, alleged that she was approached during state proficiency “testing cycles about prematurely removing students from ECOT.” Although Comparetto didn’t do it, “ECOT successfully -- but improperly -- removed several students from school,” the letter said. -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- Also, Comparetto “has personal knowledge of employees forging signatures on student applications to bolster ECOT’s enrollment,” the letter said, raising the possibility of fraudulent billing.-- (Columbus Dispatch)
- First, Yost’s office made an agreement with ECOT that limited the scope of the examination. In what is called an “agreed upon procedures engagement,” or AUP, auditors were limited to examining certain records and could offer no opinions or note management weaknesses. The agreement specified that the examination -- it’s not called an audit -- was solely for the benefit of ECOT. -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- Then Yost’s office reported that all was OK: ECOT students were offered learning opportunities justifying tens of millions in state payments. Auditors verified that a list of these offerings existed and that an ECOT teacher certified that ECOT billed the state correctly. -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- “AUPs are quite common,” said Yost spokesman Ben Marrison. “In this case, the AUP was begun as a result of a complaint. The purpose of all AUPs is to protect tax dollars.” -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- No one was interviewed about the allegations. Marrison said Comparetto declined to cooperate in the probe. The Dispatch couldn’t reach Comparetto. -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- The payday industry, including title loan companies, has given more than $1.6 million in Ohio campaign contributions since 2009. That includes donations to Gov. John Kasich ($79,155), Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, ($74,950), Secretary of State Jon Husted ($68,046), Rosenberger ($64,250) and Auditor Dave Yost ($48,828). -- (Columbus Dispatch).
- In March 2014 — the same month Ragan bought the condo for $660,000 — Rosenberger and state Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, received a three-page legal opinion from Joint Legislative Ethics Committee Director Tony W. Bledsoe that said since Ragan isn’t a lobbyist or state vendor, renting her property isn’t prohibited. -- (Dayton Daily News).
- Bledsoe advised the two men to keep written records, calculate the fair market rate based on the median rental cost of similar residences in the immediate area and if the charges fall below fair market rates, disclose this as a gift from Ragan on their annual ethics statements. [...] -- (Dayton Daily News).
- Smith is married with four kids and lives in Bidwell. He disclosed gifts from Ragan in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as well as gifts from Rosenberger in 2013 and 2014. [...] -- (Dayton Daily News).
- Smith, who Rosenberger tapped to be chairman of the House Finance Committee, no longer uses the condo due to cost, he said. Smith declined to disclose what rental rate Ragan charged. -- (Dayton Daily News).
- Ohio's 66 House Republicans are set to meet Tuesday to nominate a new leader. The full 99-member House will vote Wednesday. Among the contenders are Rep. Ryan Smith, of Gallia County, who was Rosenberger's chosen successor and chairman of the powerful finance committee, and former Speaker Larry Householder, of Perry County, who has sought the gavel since returning to the Ohio House in 2017. -- (Cincinnati Enquirer)
- Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation are searching former Ohio House speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s house in Clarksville and at a storage facility in Wilmington this morning. [...] -- (Dayton Daily News)
- Rosenberger resigned in April after disclosing that he hired Axelrod to handle an FBI inquiry. He said that all his actions have been lawful and ethical. The FBI is reportedly looking into a four-day trip Rosenberger took to London in August 2017 that was partially underwritten by payday lending interests. This newspaper found that Rosenberber (sic) made three international trips — China, London and Normandy — with payday lenders as well. [...] -- (Dayton Daily News)
- In the filing, Rosenberger also noted that he owed at least $1,000 to five entities, including Northbank 503 LLC, which is controlled by Virginia Ragan, a wealthy heiress and GOP donor. Northbank owns a luxury condo in downtown Columbus that Ragan allowed Rosenberger to rent. Neither has ever disclosed how much rent he was charged for use of the 2,237-square-foot condo overlooking the Scioto River. Ragan bought the property in March 2014 for $660,000. -- (Dayton Daily News)
- On Wednesday, the state Republican Party returned $76,000 in campaign donations from Bill Lager and his associate. Around the time the party received that sum, it sent $70,000 to the Summit County Republican Party. Soon after, Summit Republicans made an equal donation to Householder. -- (Akron Beacon Journal)
- An attempt at political money-laundering? It echoes the methods used by Householder as speaker. -- (Akron Beacon Journal)
- Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, the front-runner to replace former Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who abruptly resigned in April amid an FBI investigation, accused Rep. Larry Householder on Wednesday of using “embarrassing” efforts to convince GOP members not to back him. [...] -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- “Frankly, in the last week, the tactics once again that have been used, from bullying to threats to downright extortion, is embarrassing,” Smith told a media gathering outside the House chamber. -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- In early 2004, outgoing Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican, was under federal investigation for an alleged kickback scheme that never resulted in charges but left a black mark on Householder and the party. -- (Cincinnati Enquirer)
- In public, Wesley Goodman was an up-and-coming conservative who championed pro-family and anti-LGBT causes and aspired to someday run for Congress. -- (Cleveland.com)
- In private, he exchanged salacious texts and emails with gay men he met on Capitol Hill, and sent sexually suggestive messages to young men he met through conservative circles who were too intimidated to publicly complain, according to three people who knew him when he worked in Washington. -- (Cleveland.com)
- Goodman's double life ended this week when he resigned from the Ohio legislature after House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger was alerted to Goodman's involvement in "inappropriate behavior" with a man in his state office in Columbus. -- (Cleveland.com)
- “At the end of the day, I am not the morality police for every member of the House of Representatives,” he said. “It’s not the job of the speaker to get into everyone’s personal business and say, ‘I think you’re doing this wrong.’ “ (Columbus Dispatch).
- The state’s two largest for-profit charter operators, David Brennan of White Hat Management and William Lager of the Electronic Schools of Tomorrow (ECOT), have combined to give $2.25 million since 2009 to state political parties, lawmakers and statewide officeholders, mostly Republicans. -- (Columbus Dispatch).
- That includes a combined $320,000 to the House GOP caucus and Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina; $223,000 to Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, and his caucus; and $71,000 to Kasich. The likely top two leaders of the House starting next year got a combined $104,000 since 2009. -- (Columbus Dispatch).
- The Ohio Senate seemed to be poised to move forward on a bill that would crack down on online schools with bad attendance records. But a political maneuver may slow it down. -- (Ohio Public Radio)
- The state hands out funding to online charter schools, or e-schools, based on how many students are taking courses. Recent reports have revealed that several e-schools have turned in bad attendance records, essentially overbilling the state for students who didn’t actually show up for class. -- (Ohio Public Radio)
- Republican Sen. Peggy Lehner of Kettering says this is a serious problem that goes beyond wasteful spending. -- (Ohio Public Radio)
- “We hear it all the time from schools that say their children leave brick and mortar schools, they go to an online school and come back a year or two later and haven’t made any academic progress at all. And I think it’s very important that we look at and make sure that isn’t happening.” -- (Ohio Public Radio)
- As chair of the Senate Education Committee, Lehner expressed interest in tackling the issue by considering a bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Joe Schiavoni of the Youngstown area that would implement strict attendance requirements. -- (Ohio Public Radio)
- But Republican Senate President Keith Faber of Celina had some people scratching their heads when he did not assign the bill to Lehner’s Education Committee and put it in the Finance Committee instead. [...] -- (Ohio Public Radio)
- The assumption is that Faber moved it to a committee that would be less welcoming of a bill that would strengthen regulations against e-schools. ECOT is the biggest e-school in the state and is run by a major Republican campaign contributor. But Faber defends his decision and says it’s simply just because of the content of the bill. -- (Ohio Public Radio)
- The payday industry, including title loan companies, has given more than $1.6 million in Ohio campaign contributions since 2009. That includes donations to Gov. John Kasich ($79,155), Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, ($74,950), Secretary of State Jon Husted ($68,046), Rosenberger ($64,250) and Auditor Dave Yost ($48,828). -- (Columbus Dispatch)
- Reform advocates who have pushed for the bill have become frustrated enough to begin work on yet another statewide ballot measure that would accomplish the same regulations as the stalled bill. -- (Toledo Blade)
- They are tired of pressuring lawmakers. They are ready to take the measure directly to Ohio voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. Advocates are working up potential ballot language to submit to the state Attorney General. -- (Toledo Blade)
- The General Assembly should not make this necessary. The original Short-Term Loan Act enjoyed bipartisan support, as should this measure. Getting a grip on predatory lenders who charge Ohioans the highest interest rates in the nation should not require a constitutional amendment. -- (Toledo Blade)
- Butler County lawmaker Wes Retherford won't be forced to resign after he was found passed out at a McDonald's drive-thru. -- (Cincinnati Enquirer)
- Retherford, 33, of Hamilton, will not face a felony gun charge for the loaded firearm found inside his truck on March 12. A Butler County grand jury did not have enough evidence to indict Retherford on the charge, which could have ended his career as a lawmaker if he were convicted. -- (Cincinnati Enquirer)
- The grand jury did indict Retherford on operating a vehicle impaired, a first-degree misdemeanor. That case is still pending. A Butler County Sheriff's Office report indicated Retherford swayed, smelled of alcohol and nearly fell over during a sobriety test. -- (Cincinnati Enquirer)
- Speaker Cliff Rosenberger of Clarksville didn’t have much to say other than he’ll let the process play out and he’s thinking of Retherford and his family. -- (Ohio Public Radio)
- “It’s not conduct becoming of a member of the Ohio House – I think he knows that. People make mistakes.” -- (Ohio Public Radio)
- Philanthropist Sara Carruthers, who said she ran for her two children, received 46 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results in Butler County. With all precincts reporting, Retherford received 31 percent – or about 1,000 votes less. -- (Cincinnati Enquirer)