The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow made a campaign appearance this week. The giant online charter school did so even though it closed in January, caught in a financial vise of its own misdoing. Democrats seized on an Associated Press report about a whistleblower warning state officials last August that ECOT continued to fudge enrollment numbers in the pursuit of a larger payout of public dollars.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Youngstown, a Democratic candidate for governor, called for a criminal investigation. Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney and the Democratic candidate for attorney general, wondered why his opponent, Dave Yost, the current state auditor, didn’t make a referral for potential prosecution after hearing the whistleblower.

A Yost spokesman dismissed the Dettelbach question as nothing more than a “political stunt.” Political, it certainly is, and something Republicans would do if the tables were turned.

Which gets to the significance of the AP report and fallout.

Except for a brief period a decade ago, Republicans have been in charge of Ohio for a quarter-century. They constructed the charter school system here, now consuming $1 billion a year in public money. They have been responsible for oversight. So they bear the burden for what went wrong, so evident in the fraudulent ways of ECOT, big money flowing its way for years without the necessary accountability or promised academic quality.

To be sure, the state Department of Education finally did begin to get tough with ECOT and other charter schools. The department ordered the school to payback $60 million, or 60 percent of the public money it received for the 2015-16 academic year. It found the school could not verify its huge enrollment numbers, enrollment the driver of state funding.

It found the same, essentially, for the following school year, requiring the return of $20 million.

The Republican legislative majorities have enacted real improvements in accountability and oversight of charter schools. Dave Yost insists that he has been aggressive with ECOT. A spokesman says the whistleblower’s information will play a part in the audit set for release next week.

Yet dogging Yost and other Republicans is the political money sent the party’s way by William Lager, the ECOT founder. There is a glaring impression of pay to play, with Republicans applying their stamp of approval, for instance, as they repeatedly attended ECOT graduation ceremonies.

When early caution flags surfaced about the school’s enrollment, they triggered little scrutiny or even concern. Thus, it is fair to consider the size of this scandal, ECOT potentially padding its enrollment for a decade or more. If the false claims amounted to $80 million for two school years, how much for 10? The sum easily could climb into the hundreds of millions. That is a scandal dimensions greater than Coingate of 2006, or the last time Republicans stumbled at the polls.

The governor’s race is open, and so are other statewide executive offices, some familiar names seeking new positions. Yet Republicans are the incumbents. They have the task of defending their record, the good and bad, including the rare event of a House speaker, Cliff Rosenberger, resigning as the FBI investigates his ties to the payday lending industry.

So the party’s performance on charter schools does deserve a place in the campaign. Did someone say “swamp”? Republicans would do well to start highlighting the additional steps they are determined to take as part of ensuring that charter schools deliver as the party long has promised.