Last week we found out Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has been awarding lucrative state contracts to law firms that gave large, and sometime illegal contributions to his campaign. This morning, DeWine’s Democratic opponent, David Pepper, announced his five point plan to clean up the mess.
Pepper’s plan would ensure work is allocated “on merit, not campaign contributions” while providing transparency throughout the process, something that is severely lacking under DeWine. Here are the five steps from the announcement on his campaign website:
- 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
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