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Stephen Dyer · February 9, 2018

ECOT Survived Until this Point Because of Considerable Political Influence. Just Look at their Graduation Ceremonies.

From the beginning, ECOT was a school that had outsized influence in Ohio politics due to its founder Bill Lager’s connections and financial contributions. It was this influence that allowed the controversial school to stay open as long as it did. In no way was this clout more evident than in the political speeches made annually by Republican politicians at ECOT graduations starting in 2001. The first ECOT graduation occurred in 2001 — the only school ever known to hold its graduation at the statehouse. The ceremony took place in the Statehouse Atrium, a fitting venue for an organization that would play such and important roll in Ohio politics for the next 17 years. The keynote speaker of this graduation was Representative Jon Peterson, a Republican from Delaware County. ECOT employees and Bill Lager would donate $2,500 to his campaigns.     The following year was the last ECOT graduation to take place at the Statehouse. It featured a speech given by Congressman Pat Tiberi. ECOT founder Bill Lager would give Tiberi’s campaigns $8,500.   2005, saw a keynote speech by Arlene Setzer, the Republican chair of the House Education Committee. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give Setzer’s campaigns $8,500.     In 2006, Attorney General Jim Petro became the first statewide elected official to speak at an ECOT graduation. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give Petro’s campaigns $67,100 and a mention in Lager’s self-published book.     Then Speaker of the House Jon Husted, provided the keynote address in 2003 and 2007. It was at his 2007 appearance that Husted was awarded an honorary degree from ECOT – the only one the school gave out in its history. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give Husted’s campaigns $36,775. In 2008, State Senator Gary Cates, provided the keynote at ECOT’s graduation. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give Cates’ campaigns $20,000.   State Senator Mark Wagoner provided the keynote in 2009. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give Wagoner’s campaigns $10,000.     2010 saw the first national figure speak at ECOT’s graduation – former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. In 2009, Lager gave $10,000 to the Florida Republican Party and in 2003, he gave $2,000 to Bush’s brother, George W. Bush.     Governor John Kasich spoke at the 2011 graduation ceremony – his first year in office. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give Kasich and his running mate Mary Taylor’s campaigns more than $22,000.     2012 saw GOP appointed State Superintendent Stan Heffner provide the keynote. Two months later, Heffner was forced to resign for lobbying on behalf of an education company he planned to work for while serving as interim State Superintendent.     In 2013, Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell spoke at ECOT’s graduation. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give O’Donnell’s campaigns $12,650. O’Donnell has not recused himself from next week’s hearing on the ECOT matter.     Then Speaker of the House Bill Batchelder gave the keynote address in 2014. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give Batchelder’s campaigns $55,000.   Current State Auditor Dave Yost headlined ECOT’s graduation in 2015. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give Yost’s campaigns $11,500 and his 2015 transition account $7,500. That transition donation happened to be made not long before Yost backed off an audit of ECOT’s attendance records based on a whistleblower’s claims of the kind of attendance misconduct that eventually the Ohio Department of Education discovered two years — and $200 million in taxpayer payments to ECOT — later.     Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger provided the keynote address in 2016. ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give Rosenberger’s campaigns $24,688.     2017 saw the run of politicians speaking at ECOT’s graduation come to a close. Instead, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson headlined ECOT’s graduation ceremony.   If you don’t believe that money in politics matters, ECOT founder Bill Lager and his employees would give the speakers at their graduations more than $250,000 in campaign contributions, not counting party and caucus donations.

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Tagged in these Policy Areas: K-12 Education