Today, nearly 80 qualified appointees who wanted to serve their State proudly, were summarily tossed under John Kasich’s campaign bus in a sacrifice to the lower demons of partisan politics.

In response, the Senate Democrats did the only thing they can do under the Ohio Constitution–they filed a formal protest into the Senate Journal.  The full protest is attached at the bottom, but here are some highlights:

“We strongly oppose what we perceive as the continued politicization
of the confirmation process. Members of the Senate Majority have relied solely on political motive, failing to examine the merits of individual appointees in making their decision not to advise and consent under Section 21, Article III of the Constitution of the State of Ohio. While
the Ohio Constitution does not specify the manner in which the Senate shall choose to exercise its power of “advice and consent,” we believe today’s votes by the Majority to reject 78 appointments is an abuse of the powers so granted. While the Ohio Constitution gives the Senate broad discretion, we believe the manner in which the Majority is acting will further serve to undermine the public’s trust of state government. Today’s votes are a raw exercise of political power that departs strongly from any notion of the pursuit of public service.

“Disappointingly, this is not the first occasion where politics have come into play in the appointment process. Earlier this year, on May 25, 2010, we, the undersigned State Senators, journalized our protest to the Senate Majority’s decision not to confirm Governor Strickland’s appointment of Ms. Cathy Collins-Taylor as Director of the Department of Public Safety (Ohio Senate Journal, May 25, 2010, page 2739).  We protested what we perceived as the politicization of the confirmation process for Ms. Cathy
Collins-Taylor. Specifically, we expressed our concern that rather than focusing on the experience and qualifications of Ms. Collins-Taylor the committee process was turned into an “investigation” and “trial” of a canceled sting operation at the Governor’s mansion. Under the guise of fair public hearings, the committee process was used to smear the Department and the Governor for political gain. 

“We protested the clear deficiencies in the committee hearings as they failed to give appropriate consideration to all of the facts. The result was a confirmation process that was incomplete, unfair, and moved by ulterior motives. Specifically, those witnesses who could have supported
Ms. Collins-Taylor’s qualifications, as well as her job performance as director, were not called upon. Instead, the Senate Majority cherry-picked witnesses to testify before the committee; their actions provided a skewed, incomplete and inaccurate picture of Ms. Collins-Taylor.

“However, in contradiction to his statement critical of allowing politics in an investigation, Senator Grendell recently sent a letter to the State Central Committee of the Ohio Republican Party acknowledging that politics were on his mind during his committee’s examination of Ms. Collins-Taylor during her confirmation process. In his December 13, 2010 letter to Kevin DeWine in response to the State Central Committee’s decision to reprimand him for not accepting his seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, Senator Grendell stated the following:

“‘Furthermore, I worked hard to facilitate John Kasich’s election. My diligent pursuit of the Ohio Senate’s investigation of the Strickland Administration’s politically motivated mishandling of the drug drop at the Governor’s Mansion had a detrimental impact on Governor Strickland’s re-election effort. I do not recall receiving any affirmative recognition from you or the Central Committee for my hard work.’

“While we suspected that politics were a motivating factor behind the confirmation hearing of Ms. Collins-Taylor, Senator Grendell denied it to the public. We believe that the above statement confirms that politics were a motivator behind the investigation and confirmation hearing for Ms. Collins-Taylor.

“Today, we again find ourselves in a situation demonstrating politicization of the confirmation process. Several of the Governor’s appointments have been waiting for confirmation by the Senate for many months, including the appointments Ohio Casino Control Commission and the
Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Board of Directors. A failure to act on the appointments for several months suggests that the Senate Majority desires to pick the appointees, contradictory to what is prescribed in the Ohio Constitution.”

Yes, I know, it’s essentially a “strongly worded letter.”  Unfortunately, until we’re ready to do something about turning the Democratic Senate Minority into a majority, that’s all that can be done.

ODP Chairman Chris Redfern:

“This partisan act dripping with political overtones will not soon be forgotten. Gov.-elect Kasich stood by as a witness instead of a leader as seventy-eight of Ohio’s best leaders were thrown aside. Dedicated women, men, African Americans, Indian Americans and so many others were rejected in a wanton act of shameless political retribution.”

Meanwhile, Senate President Bill Harris has attempted to downplay the role Governor-elect Kasich had in this.  Telling the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Harris could recall only “one discussion with the Kasich administration last week.”

We believe that one conversation went something like this:

Kasich Flack:  Here’s the list of appointees we want you to reject.

Senate Leadership Flack:  Okay.

Seriously, how many more conversations would it have to take before even Bill Harris called what they did today outrageous?  How much coordination with Kasich would have it taken before Bill Harris would say “no way?”

The Constitution does give the Governor-elect any powers.  Ted Strickland was elected Governor.  He made most of these appointments even before the election.  Both the explicit text of the Constitution itself and the Senate’s own lack of any such precedent demonstrates what an utter abuse of the Senate’s “advice and consent” powers afforded to it in the Ohio Constitution.   Despite plenty of opportunities to do so, this simply has not happened before as far as I can tell.  This was a wholly unprecedented act going against generations of Senate traditions and customs.

The rest of the Democratic Senate Caucus’ statement discusses that point in fuller detail below: