An investigation conducted by the Dayton Daily News alleges that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine awarded state debt collection contracts to a friend’s collection agency and companies that donated the most money to his political campaign and the GOP, turning down more experienced vendors in the process. DeWine has denied the claim that those with political connections or deep pockets have an advantage in the awarding of state collections contracts.

The investigation specifically focuses on DeWine’s relationship with CELCO, Ltd. Pete Spitalieri, a DeWine political supporter, formed CELCO Ltd. on April 11, 2012 — just two days before DeWine’s office put out a request for proposals from collections agencies for the upcoming fiscal year. CELCO ended up winning that contract, even though the company stated in its response to the RFP that it had no experience handling collections accounts. Similarly, DeWine has selected Reliant Capital Solutions as a third party vendor for the past four years; during that time, two of its employees have donated a total of $67,000 to DeWine’s campaign coffers. And from 2012-2013, the President of Revenue Group has contributed $35,000 to the Ohio Republican Party; Revenue Group has also been one of the state’s third party vendors for the past four years. CELCO, Reliant Capital Solutions and Revenue Group are all members of ACA International.

From 2011-2013, 30 collections attorneys donated more than $10,000 to DeWine and the Ohio Republican Party. During that time, those attorneys saw average annual earnings on state debt collection work reach nearly $800,000. Also from 2011-2013, of the 89 collections attorneys who contributed less than $10,000, the average earnings during that time period were $192,000.

According to the investigation, the Attorney General hires between six and eight third party vendors, and 74-118 collections attorneys, annually to handle debt collection work. From 2011-2013, the state paid those agencies and attorneys $137.9 million. In return, the DeWine administration raked in $1.36 billion in debt revenue in his first three calendar years as Attorney General.

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