COLUMBUS – Today, David Pepper, Democratic Candidate for Ohio Attorney General, announced his concrete plan to end the cycle of pay-to-play in how the Attorney General’s office awards certain special counsel and other contracts.
“The Attorney General, as the top law officer of the state, must himself display the highest level of public integrity in order to have the credibility to take on corruption and pay-to-play wherever they occur,” said Pepper. “By adding transparency, merit-based standards and best practices from around the country, we can restore trust that the Attorney General is not breaking the very laws and rules he is tasked to enforce.”
The Dayton Daily News revealed that since 2010, firms and companies doing business or seeking to do business with the Attorney General have contributed $1.3 million to Mike DeWine’s campaign, his son’s campaign, and the Ohio Republican Party.
Many contributions were made at the same time as bids were being submitted or while bids were being considered—sometimes on the same day. Much of the money was used to pay back a $2 million personal loan DeWine made to his 2010 campaign. And DeWine has already had to return $16,000 in illegal contributions revealed by the Dayton Daily News.
“By taking these steps, we will root out any opportunity for pay-to-play, ensure high quality advocacy for Ohio’s pensioners and other clients, and restore Ohioans’ confidence that the Attorney General works for them, not for big donors.”
The Pepper Plan: Bring Honesty and Accountability
Back to the Attorney General’s Office
The public, key stakeholders and courts should know that decisions on allocating such important work are based on merit, not campaign contributions—Pepper will implement the following steps to do so:
- Add Transparency in Contract Bidding – Lack of transparency allows pay-to-play to happen. Pepper will immediately post all lists of firms, companies, and vendors doing work for the Attorney General online in an easily accessible way. This will include descriptions of the work being done, terms of contracts and service, bid documents, and any evaluations of prior work done by that firm or company.
- Measure Performance by Fair, Objective Standards – Any firm or company doing work for the Attorney General should be judged on the quality of their work and experience, not the quantity of their campaign contributions. But today, there appear to be no formal standards other than campaign contributions and lobbyist connections. Pepper will create clear, written, and objective criteria for judging proposals submitted and to judge ongoing performance of special counsel and other outside vendors, including incorporating private sector best practices as an evaluative tool.
- Create an Independent Review Board to Screen Bids – Made up of experienced legal professionals and representatives of pension funds and other relevant clients, this Board will provide the initial screen for bids for special counsel work. Using the objective criteria, the Board will make written recommendations to the Attorney General and staff as to which firms should be considered, and which are not qualified. This will prioritize quality, weed out the less qualified firms who receive work only due to their political contributions and connections, and give a stake to those who are actually represented by assigned counsel.
- Contribution Blackout – Pepper will institute a clear and firm blackout period, barring fundraising and contributions in the period before, during, and immediately after decisions are made in the bidding process. This will end the unseemly practice of money flowing into campaign accounts when bids are submitted, or while the Attorney General is considering contract bids.
- Require Full Disclosure of Contributions – As part of the bidding process, Pepper will require anyone bidding on work from the Attorney General to make a full public disclosure of contributions made to the Attorney General or political parties. This will be the best safeguard against illegal contributions, and help the public and press keep the office honest by allowing anyone to easily see as decisions are happening who has given and how much