COLUMBUS—While "Ohio versus Wall Street" has become the mantra in the governor's race, that battle has been taking place for some time in courts across the country.
Since taking office less than two years ago in the wake of scandal-plagued Marc Dann's resignation, Attorney General Richard Cordray has filed or continued lawsuits against insurance giant AIG, mortgagers Freddie Mac and Freddie Mae, Bank of America, and the three major Wall Street credit-rating agencies to recover pension fund losses that the state argues resulted from fraud. The AIG settlement alone garnered a record $1 billion recovery.
Mr. Cordray, 51, suggests that if his Republican opponent, former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, were Attorney General Mike DeWine at this time, some of these lawsuits may not have happened.
"I think he would have been less vigorous than we have been,'' Mr. Cordray said. "I do not think we would be one of the three states suing the credit-rating agencies, and I'm not at all sure that we would be involved in the Bank of America case."
And he partially blames Mr. DeWine for helping to create the fiscal crisis in the first place.
"He was part of the [Newt] Gingrich brigade," Mr. Cordray said. "He came into office after 1994. He was there for 12 years. He was senior U.S. senator for eight of the 12. He supported the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, which made it harder for us now to bring suits to protect the pension systems against securities fraud."
In addition to the two major party candidates, the Nov. 2 ballot for Ohio attorney general also includes the Constitution Party's Robert Owens and Libertarian Marc Allan Feldman.
Mr. Cordray — former state treasurer, Franklin County treasurer, state representative, and five-time Jeopardy champion—won a 2008 special election to complete the two years left in Mr. Dann's term. Although former Ohio State University law school dean Nancy Hardin Rogers was appointed in the short term to begin the office's turnaround, Mr. Cordray said he believes he delivered on his promise to return integrity and professionalism to the office.
"I came into a very bad situation," he said. "I stepped up and ran in the special election. I pressured Marc to get out, came in, and cleaned up the office. It's now running well. I think everybody acknowledges that except for Mike DeWine."
He also said he's made progress, partly with the help of federal grants, in reducing backlogs in the attorney general's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation laboratories, an issue in the 2008 campaign that has been raised again by Mr. DeWine.
"The improvements there have been substantial," Mr. Cordray said. "You don't hear any big groundswell of criticism from law enforcement. Every law enforcement organization has endorsed me in this election. If they thought I was doing a poor job, they certainly wouldn't have."
Mr. Owens recently filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission questioning the transfer of funds from Mr. Cordray's 2008 campaign to state and local Democratic organizations that he claims violates Ohio law.
Mr. DeWine said the allegation raises questions about who was paying Mr. Cordray's campaign bills early in the campaign.
"It's a very strange thing to me that for months and months it appears he was conducting a campaign with virtually no expenses, and yet there were no in-kind contributions being shown by anybody," Mr. DeWine said.
"That went on for over a year,'' he said. "He was raising money, and everybody knows he has a fund-raiser and who she is. There was never any payment to that fund-raiser that I'm aware of … I certainly think he circumvented the intent of the law.''
Mr. Cordray dismissed the allegation.
"Everything we do in our campaign finance is very careful to comply with the letter of the Ohio campaign finance laws," he said. "We vet every contribution that comes in, including those that come in over the Internet to make sure that people are not Medicaid providers, that lawyers are not giving more than they're allowed to give … We just had a campaign for this office in 2008 — no questions raised in that campaign."