Ohio Democratic Party Refuses to Return Campaign Donations From Scandal-Ridden School

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus
The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus / Wikimedia Commons
July 11, 2018

The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) refuses to return or donate campaign donations tied to the now-defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT).

The ODP received $95,000 from ECOT and its founder, Bill Lager. Democratic candidate for governor Richard Cordray also directly received a total of $600, the Columbus Dispatch reported in February.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Republican candidate for governor, has filed suit against ECOT and Lager, accusing the school of falsifying the number of students it had and therefore receiving state funding it wasn't due. The attorney general has demanded the organization return up to $200 million to the state. The school's sponsor, Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, voted in January to shut down ECOT after the state rejected a settlement offer.

While Republicans received the majority of ECOT political donations, the Ohio Republican Party and DeWine have returned or donated the funds they received.

ODP spokeswoman Kirstin Alvanitakis stated the party had no plans to return the money, saying it had already been spent.

"Those funds were received and spent years before the current leadership team took over the party, and during Chairman Pepper’s tenure, we have not taken a dime from ECOT or its related entities or leadership," Alvanitakis told the Washington Free Beacon. "Rest assured, we will be dedicating far greater resources into electing Democrats who will finally end this for-profit charter school nightmare."

Alvanitakis' statement to the Free Beacon is the same she gave in May when the Dispatch reported on the ODP receiving the funds from ECOT sources.

Despite the ODP's intent to keep the ECOT donations, the Democratic candidate Cordray attempted to criticize DeWine for not taking action against the charter school sooner. He said DeWine had done "Too little, too late!" The Ohio Republican Party in turn slammed the Democratic candidate for his complaint that, if it had any merit, could then just as easily be applied to himself given he also served as attorney general from 2009 to 2011.