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Democrats Accuse Ohio Republicans Of Protecting ECOT

ECOT statehouse rally
Julie Carr Smyth
Associated Press

Education advocates held a small rally outside of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office on Monday, calling for him to investigate the now-closed Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.

Democrats are trying to connect the Republican gubernatorial nominee to the online charter school scandal, which led to ECOT’s closure in January, but the debate will likely last the entire campaign season.

Steve Dyer, from the liberal think tank Innovation Ohio, says DeWine needs to hold a criminal investigation into ECOT.

“We now know that this was a massive scandal, we now know who’s responsible for it and now it’s time to hold people to account,” Dyer says.

Dyer accuses DeWine of trying to protect ECOT because founder Bill Lager has been a major Republican campaign donor.

But DeWine’s office says the ECOT investigation is out of the Attorney General’s jurisdiction. his gubernatorial campaign also hit back, saying the Ohio Democratic Party and their gubernatorial nominee Richard Cordray also accepted money from ECOT – which is true, though much less than what DeWine and the Ohio GOP received.

After a damning state audit found ECOT intentionally submitted false information, both DeWine and Cordray donated thousands of dollars in contributions they had received from Lager over the years. Other top Republicans, including auditor candidate Keith Faber and attorney general candidate Dave Yost, also donated their money to charity.

As for the Ohio Democratic Party, spokesperson Kirstin Alvanitakis says, “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.

“Rest assured,” Alvanitakis continued, “we will be dedicating far greater resources into electing Democrats who will finally end this for-profit charter school nightmare."

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.