As Mike DeWine’s pay to play scandal continues to unfold, we are seeing new evidence and new stories about the widening scope each week. This week was no exception…
Back in January we found out that law firms seeking work with the AG’s office have donated $1.3 million to DeWine, the ORP and Mike DeWine’s son, Hamilton County Appellate Court Judge Pat DeWine. And recently it was revealed that lawyers from firms seeking special counsel work with DeWine have donated over $359,000 to his campaign.
DeWine and his team continue to claim that the contracts are awarded to the best firms, and the campaign contributions don’t impact the selection process. Which sounds all fine and dandy until you find out that DeWine’s office has no formal process for selecting securities firms to receive lucrative contracts with the state. Instead, DeWine seems to make the decision himself, often after meeting with Republican operatives and lobbyists like Summit County GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff and DeWine’s former fundraiser Dave Myhal.
DeWine’s political allies also get special treatment. Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis received special access to DeWine after Gonidakis used his organization to promote DeWine during the 2010 election. Gonidakis was later invited for personal meetings with DeWine to discuss securities contracts. Gonidakis’s lobbying business grew nearly 10 fold after DeWine took office.
Phil Burress, the anti-gay activist who heads up Citizens for Community Values (CCV), also helped DeWine woo social conservatives in the last election. Burress’s daughter, a lawyer who also donated to DeWine’s campaign, later received lucrative special counsel contracts from DeWine’s office.
DeWine also arranged meetings to discuss special counsel contracts with David Landefeld, a DeWine campaign donor who used his position as county prosecutor to attack DeWine’s opponent, Rich Cordray, during the 2010 AG campaign. Pat Flanagan, a Dayton-area lawyer with deep Republican connections and a lot of money to donate to DeWine, also got a special meeting with the AG and his team to discuss “future work.”
This week we found out that lawyers, lobbyists and firms seeking work from DeWine have another avenue for funneling boatloads of cash to him: through his favorite charity. Hands Together Inc. operates a school in Haiti named after DeWine’s deceased daughter. The AP reports that donations raised by DeWine for the group have doubled since he took office. “The donations show how companies or attorneys who seek to influence DeWine can find creative ways to do so,” writes the AP.
Some of the biggest donors to the charity were lobbyist Michael Kiggin and well as members of firms that Kiggin represents. All gave heavily in 2012 and 2013. The firms were later awarded lucrative state contracts by DeWine. Kiggen, you may remember, also hosts big fundraisers for DeWine (some with diaper-wearing lemurs).
Each day DeWine’s claims that he isn’t handing out millions of dollars in unbid contracts to his friends, donors and political allies become more and more absurd sounding.
David Pepper has promised to clean up the AG’s office when he’s elected to the job. You can read about his plan here.
You can also find an ever-growing list of pay to play offenses by DeWine here.