Taft Stettinius & Hollister donated to House Minority Leader Bill Seitz while Ohio taxpayers paid for investigating him
The firm Attorney General Mike DeWine hired to investigate House Minority Leader Bill Seitz, Taft Stettinius & Hollister, has repeatedly donated to Seitz’s political campaigns – including a $1,000 contribution from its PAC made less than three weeks after being hired for the investigation in February. The firm did not conclude their investigation until April.
Dewine has also come under fire for hiring Taft Stettinius & Hollister despite the fact that Seitz worked at the firm for over three decades, as first reported by the Associated Press. Attempts by his office to claim they didn’t know about this conflict are laughable, not only because DeWine and Seitz have been in Ohio politics together since 2000 and Seitz was named in Cincy Magazine’s “Power 100” list as a partner at Taft, but also because Seitz’s LinkedIn profile (screenshot) lists his years at the firm.
Notably, Taft Stettinius & Hollister interviewed only two witnesses besides Seitz before they concluded they had enough evidence.
“Clearly it is a conflict of interest for a law firm to give a contribution to a candidate that it is investigating,” said Common Cause Ohio Executive Director Catherine Turcer. “The conflict should have been clear to the Attorney General’s office. State Rep. Bill Seitz has been a key player at the Ohio Statehouse for a long time and his former affiliation with Taft Stettinius and Hollister is well known.”
“This investigation was a complete sham, and DeWine should immediately find an impartial firm to conduct a fair and honest investigation,” said ProgressOhio Communications Director Tyler Dillon. “By hiring a law firm that not only employed but also repeatedly donated to Seitz’s campaigns, DeWine showed that he cares more about protecting fellow Republicans than taking sexual harassment claims seriously. To guarantee that future investigations protect victims and don’t waste taxpayer money, DeWine must take steps to ensure these conflicts of interest and abuses of power don’t happen again.”
“The brave woman who works in the House who filed the complaint against Rep. Seitz, and Ohio citizens deserve better. How can you give a $1,000 campaign contribution to someone you’re supposed to be investigating?” asked Checks and Balances Project Executive Director Scott Peterson, whose organization filed a complaint against Taft Stettinius & Hollister.
On February 20, 2018, Mike DeWine appointed Taft Stettinius & Hollister to investigate Seitz regarding a sexual harassment claim filed against the representative. 17 days later, on March 9, 2018, the Taft, Stettinius & Hollister Better Government Fund (which has the same address as the law firm’s Cincinnati office, according to committee reports filed with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office) donated $1,000 to Seitz for Ohio.
According to campaign finance reports, Taft Stettinius & Hollister or its PAC has directly donated over $13,000 to Seitz’s campaigns, and his former colleagues have contributed another $25,000. While DeWine’s office blamed the firm for not declaring a conflict of interest when it was revealed that Seitz used to work for Taft Stettinius & Hollister, there seems to be no guidelines for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office performing basic research before hiring external firms to investigate lawmakers.
DeWine has also received over $1,000 from Taft Stettinius & Hollister employees this year alone, and has been known to funnel lucrative contracts to his friends and political donors, just another example of why he has become infamous for wasting taxpayer money.