AP REPORT: Moreno Exploited “Inside” Political Connections To Boost Businesses
February 7, 2024
Associated Press: “Moreno sat on two government boards…each of those public entities boosted Moreno’s blockchain business while he served.”
Columbus, OH – A new must-read report from the Associated Press today reveals how Bernie Moreno exploited his “inside” political connections, hefty campaign contributions, and board appointments to secure government contracts that “boosted” his blockchain businesses – leading Moreno to ultimately cash out for “at least $5 million.”
“Bernie Moreno is the ultimate political insider – using his personal fortune and inside connections to steer government business towards himself and ultimately pocket millions,” said ODP spokesperson Katie Smith. “Moreno’s sleazy, insider behavior makes it clear: Moreno is only out for himself – not Ohioans.”
Associated Press: Bernie Moreno running for Senate as outsider, but public entities he served boosted his business
Julie Carr Smyth
February 7, 2024
- In his bid for U.S. Senate in Ohio, Republican Bernie Moreno has cast himself in the mold of former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed him: that of “political outsider.”
- But Moreno has, at times, served on the inside. Shortly before he entered politics, he sat on two government boards — one in Columbus, one in Cleveland. An Associated Press review found that each of those public entities boosted Moreno’s blockchain business while he served.
- That isn’t to say Moreno walked away empty-handed. When he cashed out his shares in blockchain company Ownum in April 2023, in order to avoid conflicts of interest, Moreno reported they were worth at least $5 million. Some of the company’s earliest votes of confidence had come from InnovateOhio and MetroHealth.
- Moreno was appointed to the InnovateOhio Executive Board by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted in April 2019. Moreno had stood beside Husted and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine as the new office was announced the previous September, and was a featured guest at their technology-themed inaugural celebration that January.
- Moreno and Husted already had a history….Moreno contributed a combined $20,000 to [Husted’s] political campaigns, state campaign finance reports show. Moreno gave another $25,000 to the DeWine-Husted for Ohio gubernatorial campaign in June 2018 — shortly after Ownum was incorporated.
- At the time of Moreno’s appointment [to InnovateOhio], the company had just announced its first product: a paperless blockchain option for vehicle titling, called CHAMPtitles. Moreno already had made it known that Ownum would be pitching CHAMPtitles to Ohio, among other states.
- Fast-forward to December 2019. In an address at the Blockland Solutions Conference in Cleveland, Husted said that InnovateOhio working groups had identified the Bureau of Motor Vehicles as the first place the state would try out blockchain technology, which generates “blocks” of information or transactions into ledgers that are secure and transparent. Husted said the office had received a “proposal” — he didn’t mention from whom — for the state to work with the private sector to modify Ohio’s vehicle titling system. CHAMPtitles tweeted the “exciting news.”
- Something like Husted’s backing — or the later support of MetroHealth’s CEO — held potential financial benefits for the company, said Jonah Berger, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “It can almost act as a signal of quality,” he said, to other states, governors or hospital systems considering the product.
- “If it’s a new company that nobody’s ever heard of before, either affiliations with people that others trust, or endorsements from people that others trust, can sometimes be beneficial,” he said.
- Then-Cuyahoga County Council member Shontel Brown, now a Democratic congresswoman, told The Plain Dealer at the time that it was abnormal that Moreno didn’t attend his own confirmation hearing. She also said the process was rushed at the request of MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros, who wanted Moreno confirmed ahead of the health system’s October board meeting.
- Six months later, Ownum’s second product, Vital Chain — which provided blockchain birth and death certificates — landed MetroHealth as its first client.