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September 14, 2005

The Ohio GOP: Lessons in Corruption

Craig Dorsett

      In the run-up to the 2004 election, Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert had only a three word vocabulary "Ohio, Ohio, Ohio." Boy, was he right? The Buckeye State's electoral votes went to Bush/Cheney and the rest is history. But while the presidential election came and went, the national spotlight is still fixed on Ohio.

      Much of the focus in Ohio has been on the state Republican Party, who, as it appears, has been eating, sleeping, and breathing corruption. In August, Ohio's Governor Bob Taft, a Republican, pleaded no contest to a series of ethics violations. Taft, whose great-grandfather was both president and chief justice, has approval ratings that hover around the 20% mark (for those of you who are a little less politically savvy, that means it's over for Mr. Taft). A big mistake for Taft was hiring coin dealer Tom Noe to invest the state's Worker's Compensation funds. As luck would have it, Mr. Noe's work was less than stellar—$50 million was to be invested and about $13 million was unaccounted for.

      Also sitting in a pot of hot water is Ohio Congressman Bob Ney. Ney, also a Republican—does anyone else notice a trend developing? Ney is connected through a series of shady dealings with the notoriously evil, and now accused criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The pair, along with Tom Delay, made headlines all summer long for their work of taking money from casino groups which they then funneled not-so-legally into their campaign coffers. Ney also accepted lavish golfing trips to Scotland, among other things, as payment for his dutiful legislative work.

      As the summer rolled along, a special election was taking place in OH-02, Ohio's second congressional district. The district is overwhelmingly conservative, having sent the former Republican congressman, Rob Portman, back to Washington with upwards of 75% of the vote each time around. But there was something different this time around. An Iraq war veteran with his own blend of progressive and libertarian stances had begin to catch the eye of OH-02 voters. The GOP was growing nervous of Paul Hackett and with good reason; his straightforward style was exactly the opposite of what Ohio's citizens had been hearing from the scandal plagued Republican party. Money began flowing into the race and showed no signs of slowing. In the end, Hackett lost, but garnered 48% of the vote in a district where President Bush won overwhelmingly. Now, Paul Hackett, the man and the movement, may be eyeing Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, who is up for re-election in 2006. My advice to Sen. DeWine, look out.

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