Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
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The payday lending scandal needs an investigation

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Ohio-House-Speaker-FBI

Former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned from office amid talk of an FBI investigation into his allegedly unethical behavior.

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Ohioans are owed some more information about how influence is being apportioned in the Ohio House of Representatives — before members get together and elect a new speaker.

The former speaker, Cliff Rosenberger, abruptly quit on April 12 — after it was reported he had retained a lawyer to respond to questions from the FBI. The Clarksville Republican says he’s done nothing wrong.

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Some payday lending lobbyists may have attempted to curry favor with the speaker by helping to pay for a trip to London. The FBI is investigating that. It just so happened that payday lenders went on a lavish trip with the speaker and that coincidentally the legislation to reform payday lending got bottled up in committee. The legislation, co-sponsored by Toledo state Rep. Michael Ashford, is aimed at reining in the predatory interest rates that so-called payday lenders charge.

Ohio citizens want the Ohio General Assembly to act in the citizens’ best interests at all times. That includes when it comes to regulating the payday lending industry.

All we know is that Mr. Rosenberger was rapidly hustled out of town, and Republican House members act like it’s just another day at work and time to elect a new House Speaker. Meanwhile, the story about the payday lenders and Mr. Rosenberger’s excellent adventure in London has gone quiet. Mr. Rosenberger is the first speaker to resign under an ethical cloud.

State Rep. David Leland, who is a former state Democratic chairman, and his colleague Kristin Boggs, both of Franklin County, are asking for an investigation. The two last week sent letters to Legislative Inspector General Tony Bledsoe and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien asking them to conduct a “thorough inquiry.”

The Associated Press reported that in August, Mr. Rosenberger took a four-day trip to London with Republican leaders from other states for an event paid for by the GOPAC Education Fund’s Institute for Leadership Development. GOPAC helps elect Republicans to higher office.

Steve Dimon, an Ohio-based lobbyist for title lender LoanMax, also was on the trip. Title and payday lenders have been lobbying against proposed legislation at the Statehouse that would place restrictions on their industry.

“Mr. Rosenberger has violated the public of Ohio at the highest level. Ohioans deserve to have confidence that our work at the Statehouse is not being degraded by pay-to-play politics,” the letter said.

Northwest Ohio’s state representatives on the Republican side — Derek Merrin of Monclova Township, Steve Arndt of Port Clinton, and Theresa Gavarone of Bowling Green among them — should demand full transparency for any violations of the public trust.

The Franklin County prosecutor’s office and the office of the inspector general should not wait for the FBI to decide what to do but should open an investigation and follow where it leads.

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