(The opinions expressed in guest op-eds are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.)
The time-honored tradition of Republican-on-Republican fighting is taking place in Ohio. Even though the midterms are right around the corner, Bryan Williams, chair of the Summit County Republican Party, is launching a challenge against Bob Paduchik, the current chairman of the Ohio GOP and a senior advisor on former President Trump’s 2020 campaign. The Ohio GOP’s meeting to vote on leadership usually takes place in January, but Williams is attempting to force a vote on Friday, September 9.
Some people inside the Ohio GOP apparently have concerns about Williams’ candidacy, as committee members received an anonymous email detailing numerous alleged controversies surrounding Williams. The email alleged that Williams had direct ties to the scandal surrounding former Ohio Speaker Larry Householder, who was indicted on corruption-related charges. The email is too long to post in full, but below is a sample of what committee members received anonymously. (This is posted directly from the email. Any bold lettering and underlines come from that.)
[A state senator] “questioned Williams’ work with a political operative (with ties to FirstEnergy donations) who has pleaded guilty in the $61 million bribery scandal involving a legislative bailout for the Akron energy company’s former nuclear power plants in northern Ohio.”
In a letter to Senate leadership, State Senator Nickie Antonio wrote, “It is my understanding, confirmed through reporting by the Columbus Dispatch and through records on file with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, that Mr. Williams was a principal of record with Jeff Longstrethat the Ohio Leadership Council, a political nonprofit engaged in sourcing and grooming potential candidates for office. Mr. Longstreth, as you are aware, recently pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges connected to the ongoing House Bill 6 federal bribery investigation. Mr. Longstreth additionally pleaded guilty in that case to a racketeering conspiracy charge as the corporate representative of another political nonprofit, Generation Now. Questions were raised last year by Summit County Republicans about the nature of the political relationship between Mr. Williams and Mr. Longstreth.”
Local Republican candidates have told the Beacon Journal that Summit County GOP boss Bryan Williams gave them no option but to turn their campaigns over to Longstreth. [Akron Beacon Journal, 7/30/20]
A year before the primary, 37th House district candidate Dexter Vaughan said he received a call from the executive director of the Summit County Republican Party. Local GOP Chair Bryan Williams, who did not return a phone call seeking comment, wanted him at the party headquarters that day to talk with Jeffrey Longstreth, one of the men indicted Tuesday. [Akron Beacon Journal, 7/21/20]
Beyond the [Akron] headquarters of the company in question, the case has several ties to Summit County, where the implicated money propped up candidates directly or with attack ads against their opponents, according to campaign finance reports. The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office reports $71,000 in donations flowed from the Summit County Republican Party Central Committee to Householder in 2017 and 2018 when the alleged scheme unfolded. [Akron Beacon Journal, 7/30/20]
There are numerous other allegations in the email, ranging from issues with conduct to alleged “shady dealings” and other misgivings. The email also pointed out that while Ohio has gotten redder as a state, Williams has a losing record as chair of the Summit County GOP.
David Johnson, head of the Columbiana County GOP, shared with committee members an alleged memorandum of understanding between Jim Renacci, the former GOP gubernatorial candidate (who was defeated by current governor Mike DeWine), and Williams. This email alleges that Renacci would essentially function as “titular head” of the Ohio GOP while getting paid to do so in the process. If true, that could raise serious conflict-of-interest concerns.
I am not here to declare guilt or innocence to anyone involved. I have little firsthand knowledge of anything that is alleged. However, Ohio Republicans should probably ask themselves if it’s wise to engage in the circular firing squad, with the midterms around the corner.
Darvio Morrow is CEO of the Ohio-based FCB Radio Network and co-host of The Outlaws Radio Show