Morgan Campaign Urges Yost to Fire Spokesman [UPDATED]

On February 25, I noted that Yost campaign spokesman Matt Borges has a little public corruption in his past. In 2004, Borges pleaded guilty to improper use of public office amidst a scandal involving his time working for former Ohio Treasurer Joseph Deters. It seemed to me that someone aspiring to be Auditor of State, our government watchdog, shouldn’t have any trace of corruption on his campaign. I wrote:

On more than one occasion, Yost has boasted about his (admittedly impressive) record for going after public corruption. That’s all well and good, but what about the corrupt former public servant on his own campaign staff? Matt Borges pleaded guilty to improper use of public office. What is he doing on the campaign staff of a man who prides himself on the aggressive prosecution of public corruption? More importantly, will Mr. Borges be working in the Auditor of State’s office if Yost is elected?

Now the Morgan campaign has written a letter to Dave Yost urging him to fire Mr. Borges. From the Morgan campaign’s press release, which I received by e-mail:

Dear Dave,

It has been brought to my attention through past media reports in the Dayton Daily News, the Cincinnati Enquirer, other media outlets, and recent news blogs that you have associated on both of your campaigns, running for Ohio Attorney General and now Auditor of State, an individual that admitted to public corruption charges.

The public insists the Auditor of State to be above reproach and demands the Auditor to have high ethical standards due to the sensitive nature of the cases the office handles. Even the hint of impropriety would be damaging to the reputation and the public trust of the Auditor’s office. That is the reason why the ethical standards for professional auditors such as Seth Morgan, CPA are some of the highest found among any professional group.

Mr. Matt Borges, your campaign spokesman and member of your campaign leadership team, admitted to public corruption charges in July 2004 when he was Chief of Staff to State Treasurer Joe Deters. Borges pleaded guilty to one count of improper use of public office. Court documents indicate he gave preferential treatment to certain brokers who made contributions to Deters’ re-election campaign.

Mr. Borges may be a very skilled professional and I don’t claim to have any special knowledge of what did or didn’t happen in the Treasurer’s office at the time he chose to plead guilty to these charges. However, the fact that Mr. Borges did plead guilty to corruption charges and you still have seen fit to allow him to play a very visible role in your campaign could raise very serious questions in the public’s mind regarding the standards you would use should you prevail and succeed in being elected Ohio’s next State Auditor.

I urge you to disassociate your campaign from Mr. Borges and to exercise greater care in the future regarding those who become part of your team.

Respectfully,

Emery Phipps
Political Director
Friends of Seth Morgan

Given the very nature of the Auditor of State’s office, this is not an unreasonable request. You can bet, though, that Yost supporters will once again howl about the purported “scorched earth” campaign that they say Morgan and his supporters are running. To that, I would point out to them as I pointed out in February that it is far better to air this now, during the primaries, than to let David Pepper get his hands on it in the fall.

As Yost supporters are so fond of pointing out, it’s not just the Auditor’s office that is at stake here. It’s the Apportionment Board. By employing someone who has admitted to public corruption in the past, Dave Yost is not only jeopardizing the integrity of the Auditor’s office should he win, he is also jeopardizing Republican chances to maintain control of the Apportionment Board should David Pepper hammer him day in and day out about his association with Mr. Borges.

UPDATE: I have been reminded that this incident has since been expunged from Mr. Borges’ record, which in no way changes the fact that he still pleaded guilty to one count of improper use of public office in 2004. But yes, for the record, that has since been expunged.

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