COLUMBUS, Ohio – An allegation of Ohio Republican Party’s leadership “railroading” reform-minded members of Ohio GOP’s State Central Committee during the organization’s fall meeting on Friday has caused two more members to become public and more vocal regarding growing concerns about how the state party operates.
District 26 member Lisa Cooper went so far in a letter to the central committee over the weekend to call the leadership and their supporters “an oligarchy” unwilling to work with members seeking adherence to the Ohio GOP’s bylaws in its management of the party’s operations.
At the start of the September 10 meeting, reform members said Ohio Chairman Bob Paduchik failed to acknowledge an attempt by District 21 member Joe Miller of Cleveland Heights to get recognized for a motion to amend the agenda. Another reform member, District 10 member Laura Rosenberger of Springfield, also was not recognized by Paduchik on her motion to add new business as he quickly gaveled the meeting’s adjournment.
“I hope to never be in another State Central Committee meeting where I see our chair and certain members of the Committee railroading the process to prevent the ability of members to speak,” Cooper wrote in a letter that members shared with The Ohio Star. “No members should ever be favored and no members should ever feel intimidated.”
She said the treatment shows no respect for the statutory authority the State Central Committee wields in directing the party.
Among the expected topics reform members were expected to add were party financial support earlier this year of $500,000 each to DeWine and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost plus in-kind campaign costs the party picked up without approval from or notice to the central committee’s finance review committee.
Reform members had sought to ban central committee endorsements of candidates, instead of allowing the 2 million or so voters in Republican primaries to freely consider candidates.
Others had hoped to discuss Critical Race Theory, which is a social justice ideology getting taught in public schools and to receive from management a full explanation of accounting issues in GOP party financial records.
In the letter, Cooper said other resolutions included calling for central committee standing committees to actually meet, another seeking a GOP response to a recent remark from President Biden, and another a simple invitation to sign a sympathy care for a central committee member who had just lost his mother.
“Why would the members of the (Central Committee) or the chair feel threatened concerning these motions or announcements?” Cooper asked in the letter emailed to members. “This is our committee. Not a committee of the select few.”
Paduchik did not make himself available Tuesday for an interview.
Specific to the agenda vote, GOP spokeswoman Tricia McLaughlin in an email said, “The motion to accept the agenda was made, it was seconded, there was no discussion, it was voted on and was overwhelmingly passed.”
She denied Paduchik ignored Miller’s attempt to gain the chair’s attention so he could seek to expand the items on the agenda.
Video shot during the GOP meeting for the campaign of U.S. Senate candidate Mark Pukita shared with The Star is inconclusive on the agenda issue at 6:40 as Miller is off-camera. But others in the room concur The Star’s observation that Miller was ignored.
Paduchik’s rush to adjourn as Rosenberger stood up to request the addition of new business is clear at 1:40:40.
Shutting it down
Jim Burgess, the District 15 committee member from Northeast Columbus, said Paduchik did in fact ignore attempts to change the agenda and discouraged discussion about ongoing questions about Ohio GOP financial records.
During the last several months, “The idea was to work with the chairman, but Paduchik has decided he doesn’t want to work with us,” said Burgess. “It was frustrating the way he shut us down.”
He said those members who want to take the active role in representing Republican voters in the district get sidelined.
“There are certain people (party leadership) doesn’t want to work with,” he said.
Burgess, who has served for five years, also expressed frustration that the central committee’s standing committees do not meet as required. He said the finance review committee on which he serves did not get noticed let alone a chance to review the DeWine and Yost campaign expenditures as the bylaws require.
“As far as I know, no committees have formal meetings,” he said.
He added, “Those in top leadership can run the party any way they want. That was shown by the (combined) $1 million in donations to DeWine and Yost.”
In interviews with The Star, neither Cooper nor Burgess said they have a clear plan for how to advance reforms ahead of the 2022 election cycle for members of the General Assembly and the five statewide executive offices.
Burgess said several more supporters of a strong and active Central Committee would have to band together before having enough votes to force a special meeting on managerial concerns.
“I can’t tell what will happen,” he said. “If the chairman wants to follow the established rules, then we will see improvements.”
Cooper said she hasn’t fully gauged the level of central committee support or opposition through the initial reactions to her letter.
“I wanted to start with this letter,” she said, which received positive responses from 10 of the 66 members within by Tuesday late morning. “I’m disappointed anyone who disagreed didn’t contact me. That means they were OK with what happened.”
The Star will continue to follow this developing story as it unfolds.
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Brian R. Ball is a veteran journalist in Columbus reporting for The Ohio Star and Star News Network. Send him news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by J. Jessee. CC BY-SA 2.0.