Ohio officials concerned by GOP leader's tax liens

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Elected officials who signed a letter endorsing Matthew Borges as the next chairman of the state Republican Party have asked him to resolve and explain the tax liens he has accrued before Friday's election.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted said they were disappointed that Borges hadn't made them aware of the state and federal tax liens before he sought their backing, and they want him to take steps to address the issue.

As of April 12, Borges owed $28,799 in federal taxes and $98,397 to the state, his attorney said. He had planned to pay a portion of the state lien last week.

DeWine said he called Borges, the party's 40-year-old executive director, after learning about the liens to express his concern.

"I think he owes everyone more answers. We don't know what the story is, and we really don't know what the truth is," DeWine said last week. "I think he needs to have a further explanation of this."

Husted said he also called Borges after the liens became public.

"I told him that I was disappointed that I was not made aware of this before being asked to sign a letter and that I wanted him to resolve this matter before standing for election," Husted said. "He assured me that he would."

Messages were left with Borges and a party spokesman on Monday seeking an update on the statuses of the liens.

DeWine emphasized that it is the 66-member Republican State Central Committee, not elected officials, that will decide whether Borges is the party's next chairman.

"They're the ones who are going to have to make that choice," DeWine said.

The committee, which meets Friday, was re-aligned last year in a successful effort spearheaded by Gov. John Kasich's allies to oust then-Chairman Kevin DeWine.

Long-time state Republican Chairman Bob Bennett has been filling in since Kevin DeWine, a second cousin to the attorney general, stepped aside a year ago. Bennett is retiring May 31 to allow time for his successor to prepare for next year's statewide elections.

Borges faces a challenge from Tom Zawistowski, a businessman and tea party leader from Portage County.

Zawistowski is a leading figure in a conservative backlash against the party that has stemmed from a series of issues. Those include Kasich's support of Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law opposed by many Republicans, Portman's decision to support same-sex marriage and Borges' 2004 conviction on misdemeanor misuse of public office, a charge later cleared from his record.

DeWine and Husted were among all Ohio's top Republican elected officials in signing the March endorsement letter. Kasich, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Auditor Dave Yost and Treasurer Josh Mandel also signed.

Mandel said he has been occupied with the birth of his first child and has not spoken with Borges about the liens.

Messages seeking comment were left with the other officials who signed the letter.

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