Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett announced today that he’s hiring Matt Borges as executive director of ORP, despite the fact that Borges was involved in a public corruption scandal that likely cost Ohioans millions in bad investments.
Back in 2004 Borges pleaded guilty to steering state investment business to convicted swindlers like former Cuyahoga Lehman Brothers broker Frank Gruttadauria (who stolen millions from his clients) in exchange for campaign donations for his boss Joseph Deters which he funneled through the Hamilton County Republican Party to circumvent campaign finance limits.
Borges has since had his record expunged, but as Joe Hallet mentions in his piece for the Dispatch, it’s hard not to see the irony here.
After months of fighting over control of the Ohio Republican Party, with Kasich allies claiming corruption as a big reason Kevin DeWine needed to replaced as chairman, Kasich-approved replacement Bob Bennett’s first major hiring decision involves bringing on an executive director with a record of political corruption.
In the early-to-mid 2000′s, under Bob Bennett’s previous term as Chairman, the Ohio Republican Party was rocked with scandal after scandal, Tom Noe and Coingate and Governor Taft’s unethical,lobbyist-funded golf outings just to name two. This culture of corruption in Ohio Republican politics is often cited as one of the reasons Democrats nearly-swept statewide elections in 2006.
In his recent announcement, Bennett recognized Borges’s past problems but claimed “time has proven Borges to be of high moral character”. I suppose there is some universe in which this is possible, but I reserve the right to be skeptical especially after reports last year that Kasich brought on Borges to head his Inaugural Committee at the same time Borges was hired at a law firm that asked its wealthy clients to make bundled donations to the committee through their firm if they expected to get tickets to the inaugural ball.
Kasich and his allies have been accused of using threats, intimidation and promises of appointments and power in order to get their people on the State Central Committee and gain control of the Ohio Republican Party. And now that they are in charge, it doesn’t seem like they have any intention of slowing down.
Some saw the decision to bring back Bennett as chairman as a sign Kasich wouldn’t have complete and total control as everyone was expecting. But the Borges decision makes it pretty clear that Kasich is, in fact, pulling all the strings. Borges abused his position and plead guilty to the charges, but he also proved his loyalty to his former boss by taking the bullet. And if we know anything about Kasich, it’s that he values loyalty above all else.
Borges’s crime was public corruption, and as his punishment he received a major role in the inaugural and has now been hired as the big dog in a big state in the middle of a big election. If you had any questions about where Kasich is planning to take the Ohio Republican Party, all should now be clear.