The issue of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s alleged favoritism in rewarding a debt collection contract boiled over on the weekend as his office released official collection totals for last year and a prominent newspaper published a blistering editorial on the matter.
DeWine, a Republican, has been accused – mainly by his Democratic challenger — of improperly awarding a lucrative debt collection contract to one of his major donors. Ordinarily, the matter wouldn’t get too much attention. But an Ohio paper found documents showing that the debt collection agency that won the contract had been formed just two days prior to DeWine issuing an RFP for collection services.
Even then, the matter was covered only locally (and by insideARM.com, of course). But DeWine’s office late Friday announced that fiscal year 2014 (ended June 30, 2014) saw a record level of debt collection from his office. The Ohio AG is responsible for managing and outsourcing all state debt collection work.
In FY 2014, Ohio’s Collections Enforcement Section brought in a record $471 million, up from $465 million in FY 2013.
The announcement triggered a wave of counter-commentary from the media and DeWine’s Democratic challenger, David Pepper.
Pepper is now prominently featuring the issue on his campaign website; as of Monday, it is the lead story on his site. He claims that the debt collection contract award is indicative of DeWine’s “culture of pay-to-play and rigging bids.” Pepper’s campaign, and Ohio Democratic activists, claim that releasing the debt collection figures from last year are a part of DeWine’s “spin mode” on the issue.
For his part, Pepper does not seem to have any problems with the debt collection program itself, only the way one particular contract was awarded.
On Saturday, the editorial board of The Cleveland Plain Dealer published an editorial calling for more transparency from DeWine right now, and going forward for “whomever Ohioans elect or re-elect as attorney general in November.”
DeWine is currently serving his first term as Ohio Attorney General after stints in both the U.S. House and Senate, and as the Lieutenant Governor of the state. He won his current office in 2010 by narrowly defeating Democrat incumbent Richard Cordray, who is now Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).