State to slash ECOT funding over attendance issues: Ohio Politics Roundup

State officials plan to cut funding to the embattled ECOT online charter school, even as a new report details thousands in legislative campaign donations from school officials. Backers of the Issue 2 ballot measure attack their rivals over their campaign-finance report. And U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci’s gubernatorial campaign is questioned about a donation from his federal campaign committee. Today’s roundup is brought to you by Jeremy Pelzer.

State to slash ECOT funding: The embattled ECOT online charter school will see a 12-percent state funding cut for the upcoming school year because of ongoing attendance concerns, as The Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell notes, “those cuts would be added to the $2.5 million monthly deductions the state is already taking from the school’s funding to cover the school’s past attendance issues.”

ECOT officials keep up campaign giving: Meanwhile, the Columbus Dispatch’s Jim Siegel has found that ECOT founder Bill Lager and a top associate poured more than $122,000 into Republican campaign coffers during the first half of 2017. Recipients of the contributions included the Ohio Republican Party, state Rep. Larry Householder (a frontrunner to become the next House speaker), and House Education Committee Chair Andrew Brenner.

Speaking of legislative fundraising… Two of the top candidates to be the next Ohio House speaker have each had a lucrative 2017 so far. Householder and Rep. Ryan Smith reported raising $715,900 and $462,000, respectively, in the first six months of the year, according to Siegel. Householder’s haul was the highest of any individual state legislator during that time.

Sharing the wealth: Siegel also notes that Smith donated $490,000 to the House’s campaign caucus fund during the first half of the year (a good way to make friends within the caucus). Householder gave $53,500 to the caucus during that time.

No thanks: Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a 2018 GOP candidate for governor, has decided to pass on joining other candidates for a Sept. 5 debate, reports’s Andrew J. Tobias. 

In a letter to Americans for Prosperity’s Ohio chapter, which is trying to organize the debate, “DeWine Campaign Manager Dave Luketic cited the possibility of flux in the candidate field, and November’s municipal elections,” writes Tobias.

“‘We believe voters should have undivided focus on this year’s candidates and issues. Our campaign is more than willing to enter into negotiations with organizations to set a time/place closer to the Republican primary and when there is more resolution in the field of candidates for governor,’ Luketic wrote.”

Tobias reports that “the refusal from DeWine, the Republican field’s best-known candidate, puts the event in jeopardy.”

Issue 2 backers hit rivals on finance report: The campaign-finance report submitted Monday by the main group opposing Issue 2, a ballot measure on prescription-drug prices, lacks details about where the organization’s funding is coming from, according to proponents of the ballot issue. As’s Laura Hancock explains, all of the $15.8 million collected by the Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue during the last six months came from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America trade group via an LLC and a political action committee. The problem, critics say, is that the finance report doesn’t detail which pharmaceutical companies funded the trade group’s donations and how much each company gave.

Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices, the main pro-Issue 2 group, says it plans to file a complaint with the state and is exploring other legal avenues. A spokesman for Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue says the group has always been transparent about the source of the money, adding that he doesn’t think people are particularly interested in exactly which companies donated to the campaign.

Worth noting: Of the $3.7 million raised in the last six months by Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices, all but $151 came from the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which supported a similar measure in California last year that failed.

Renacci campaign scrutinized over donation: U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci’s federal campaign committee improperly gave $12,707 to his state-level campaign for governor, according to Randy Ludlow of the Columbus Dispatch. At least, that’s the claim made by the office of Secretary of State (and Renacci GOP gubernatorial primary rival) Jon Husted, citing an Ohio law prohibiting federal officeholders from transferring funds from a federal campaign committee to their own committee for state office.

Renacci’s side of the story: The Republican’s campaign insists the donation was legal, as it was made through a state-registered PAC created by the candidate’s federal campaign. And a Renacci campaign spokesman said one of their campaign co-treasurers was told by Husted’s office beforehand that the move was proper (a claim to which a SOS spokesman had no immediate response).

Tuesday evening, Renacci’s campaign went on the offensive against Husted over the issue. “If career politician Jon Husted is going to peddle fake news to prop up his campaign, he should at least have the courtesy not to do it with taxpayer dollars,” a spokesman stated. “And if he wants to stand by this embarrassingly false and desperate allegation, he should at least have the guts to go ahead and file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission — we’d be happy to settle this there.” 

Lawmakers stay quiet about accident during fair visit: The Ohio House and Senate agriculture committees held their annual Ohio State Fair joint meeting on Tuesday. And as’s Laura Hancock reports, the meeting was light, as lawmakers avoided talking about last week’s fatal fair ride malfunction other than in an opening prayer. “Any controversial questions (about the fatality) are saved for the House or Senate floors,” said Senate Ag Committee Chair Cliff Hite.

Portman co-sponsors anti-human trafficking bill: Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman on Tuesday co-sponsored the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017, designed to make it tougher for websites such as to use the First Amendment as a shield to avoid criminal penalties and lawsuits for running child sex ads.’s Stephen Koff writes that Portman is one of more than 20 senators from both parties who are co-sponsoring the bill.

Emergency call: A new interim report from a presidential commission asserts that President Donald Trump should declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency” so he can take “bold steps” to address it, according to’s Sabrina Eaton. The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also made a number of other recommendations, including that the Trump administration let all 50 states allow Medicaid patients to be treated for drug addiction in facilities with more than 16 beds.

It’s a good time to be PG: A year after his unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate, Democrat PG Sittenfeld is sitting in the catbird seat. During the first six months of 2017, he raised an eye-popping $315,000 for his Cincinnati City Council re-election campaign this year – a fact that he touted in a press release Monday.

And others are taking notice of him. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is said to be courting him to run against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot next year, and his name is in the mix as a potential lieutenant governor candidate.

Sittenfeld said that despite his statewide-campaign-sized fundraising haul, he has no plans to run for any office in 2018.

“There are people every day that sort of call me and they seem to have ideas for me,” he said. “But my idea is to work hard and get re-elected.”

Bob Latta gets another primary opponent: Bob Kreienkamp, a farmer from Wayne, has entered the GOP race for Latta’s 5th congressional district seat, according to Debbie Rogers of the (Bowling Green) Sentinel-Tribune. Like Latta’s other primary rival, Todd Wolfrum, Kreienkamp says he doesn’t like that Latta hasn’t met with constituents in his district about health care reform. (Latta has held a number of “tele-town-halls” with constituents via telephone.) 

Marcia Fudge backs Jackson: The Democratic U.S. representative from Warrensville Heights endorsed Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson for re-election on Tuesday,’s Robert Higgs writes. Speaking at Jackson’s campaign HQ, Fudge said Jackson “has worked tirelessly on Cleveland’s transformation, and the results can be seen throughout the entire city.”

Late returns show Johnson finishes third in fundraising: The same day that Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson was cleared by the Ohio Supreme Court to run for mayor, he missed a campaign-finance filing deadline, according to’s Robert Higgs. Johnson turned his report in Tuesday afternoon, a day after the deadline, showing that his campaign raised $55,000 during the first six months of 2017 – the third-most among Cleveland mayoral candidates. The Ohio Elections Commission will decide whether Johnson will be fined for missing the deadline.

Golden anniversary: The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) will celebrate its 50th anniversary during a two-day gala in Canton on Oct. 1-2, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

School pulls trigger on lifting conceal-carry ban: Cedarville University on Tuesday became the first college in Ohio to allow concealed handguns on campus, reports Max Filby of the Dayton Daily News. The new policy, which only applies to school faculty, staff, and trustees with conceal-carry licenses, was passed by university trustees in May but didn’t take effect until now.

Get Battleground Briefing, our FREE politics newsletter, delivered to your inbox: Sign up hereTips or links? Send hereFollow along on Twitter: @JPelzer