The chairman of the Ohio Republican Party sent a November 30 open letter addressed to “Interested Parties,” denouncing State Central Committeeman Mark A. Bainbridge for his criticism of how party finances are handled.

“Quite simply, Mark is making crazy accusations of fiscal malfeasance to damage the State Central Committee,” said Robert A. Paduchik, who took over the party’s reins in February, succeeding Jane E. Timken, now a candidate for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate.

“When Mark first brought up his concerns, I tried to work with him and his followers. In some instances, we employed some of his recommendations,” Paduchik said in the letter, whose authenticity a party spokeswoman confirmed.

“ORP has hired a CPA to manage the books and campaign finance compliance,” he said. “Additionally, we have hired a COO to coordinate all the ORP operational activities, so most staff can focus on what we do best, winning elections. We will always work to improve operations.”

Paduchik said after a while, the working relationship between Bainbridge and the ORP staff became strained.

The chairman said Bainbridge and his followers should focus on helping elect Republicans instead of attacking the party.

Instead of working with the chairman and through the staff, Bainbridge, who retired a partner after 36 years at Ernst and Young, took the initiative with the outside accounting firm, the chairman said.

“Regrettably, the cooperative effort changed when Mark’s true intentions became clear,” he said. “This past summer, he sabotaged an independent audit by inappropriately attempting to influence the process and shape the report. He harassed the auditors with phone calls and emails and went so far as to threaten the auditors if they didn’t comply with his demands.”

The chairman said Bainbridge’s interactions with the outside accounting firm delayed resolving the problems with the party’s books.

“This harassment campaign resulted in the auditors quitting the contract,” he said. “Mark would have waited a few weeks; the audit would have been completed and his questions answered. But it’s clear to me that he was never interested in truthful answers.”

Paduchik said another problem with Bainbridge is that he took his disagreements and concerns public rather than working out internally.

“While there has always been disagreement among members of the State Central Committee, it is unprecedented for the arguments to be displayed before the public at large,” he said.

The chairman said Bainbridge hurts the party and its governance with his public statements to the effect that party funds are missing or unaccounted for in the financial statements.

These Bainbridge statements include his November 24 memorandum that called for Paduchik’s removal as party chairman because he failed to fix the books, which Paduchik said are already fixed—as the chairman said was made clear in his May 24 memorandum on the party’s finances.

“But, it hasn’t stopped there. If you’ve seen all the letters, you’d know Mark’s allegations have kept changing since that May 24th memo,” Paduchik said.

“Next, we heard an allegation of $1.7 million in ‘missing funds;’ nothing to back it up, just another unsubstantiated charge,” he said. “Just last week, yet another baseless letter alleging $270,000 in lost money. Please know, every penny that comes in and every penny that leaves the ORP is reported either to the Federal Elections Commission or the Ohio Secretary of State.”

The missing or unaccountable funds were keypunch errors by party staffers, who used the wrong coding, he said.

“The allegations of financial impropriety stem from Mark Bainbridge and his stunning failure to understand how political parties are governed, and the basic accounting principles parties operate within,” he said.

Paduchik: Dark money funds Central Committee rebels

In addition to Bainbridge’s conduct, Paduchik wrote in the letter that Committee for a Better Ohio is also a hindrance to the party’s success, especially as the committee and Bainbridge have been working together to undermine the party.

“They have openly slandered colleagues, conducted opposition research on committee members, threatened members with legal exposure, and filed complaints against their colleagues,” the chairman wrote.

“This self-described group of ‘reformers’ is working directly with the dark money group Committee for a Better Ohio. It’s clear they are a fifth column element determined to destroy the Ohio Republican Party,” he said. “A handful of members of the State Central Committee are working with a dark money organization that is determined to destroy the Ohio Republican Party.”

Paduchik said the organization, The Committee for a Better Ohio, led by John Morrow and Thomas R. Zawistowski, is funded by secret sources and is pushing to reorganize the ORP under a biannual convention and eliminate the State Central Committee.

Zawistowski responds to Paduchik attacks, denies Bainbridge coordination

In an exclusive comment to The Ohio Star, Zawistowski, an Akron resident, said Paduchik’s charges of dark money and coordination with Bainbridge are ridiculous.

“I find it rich that the guy who can’t explain where the money comes from and a where it goes, ORP Chairman Bob Paduchik, which is the definition of ‘dark money,’ is accusing John Morrow and I of using ‘dark money’ to ‘destroy the Ohio Republican Party.’ It looks to me like Chairman Paduchik is doing a very good job of that without our help,” he said.

“I can unequivocally state that I have had no contact with Mark Bainbridge in regards to his investigation into financial wrongdoing by the ORP, but I felt it was important to send out an email today linking to the story in The Ohio Star because Republican primary voters have a right to know what is going on with the ORP,” he said.

Zawistowski said he also takes issue with Paduchik’s accusation that party reformers are hurting the party and its candidates—and the chairman’s taking credit for President Donald J. Trump‘s back-to-back victories in the Buckeye State.

“Let me also push back on the Chairman’s statement about “Mark and his followers spending so little time helping elect Republicans,” he said.

“While he has lied to President Trump and everyone else about how he won Ohio for Trump in 2016 and in 2020, he knows that it was my efforts and those of our grassroots supporters who carried his water and won both those elections despite Bob Paduchik,” he said. “I would go even further and say that I have elected more Republicans in this state than he ever has or ever will.”

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Neil W. McCabe is the national political editor of The Star News Network. Follow him on Twitter: neilwmccabe2.
Image “Bob Paduchik” by Bob Paduchik.