As we’ve been discussing, the Senate has included language in the budget that will force the state to effectively sell the Ohio Lottery to a private company by next June.

The language was delivered to chairman of the Senate finance committee Chris Widener by long-time Republican political operative Mike Dawson who is now working at a lobbyist for one of the two companies vying for the lottery privatization contract.

Dawson, along with Kasich’s longtime political confident Don Thibaut, were recently hired as a lobbyists for GTECH – a company specializing in lottery operations that stands to reap huge financial benefits if the budget bill, containing the language delivered by Dawson, passes in its current form.

The hiring of Dawson and Thibuat – who has never worked as a lobbyist before – turned a lot of heads in Columbus. Regular readers of Plunderbund won’t be surprised. The Kasich administration has been sending a direct and very clear message (read: threat) to anyone who wants to do business with the state: hire our guys, and we’ll help you out. Hire Democrats, and you’re shit out of luck.

GTECH got the message.

For decades GTECH employed the Success Group, an arrangement that began in the mid-1980s when Democrat Dick Celeste was governor and Democrat Dennis Wojtanowski launched the Success Group. Even through Republican administrations (Voinovich and Taft), the Success Group kept GTECH as their client. Suddenly that changed under Kasich.

GTECH abruptly fired the Success Group and hired first-time lobbyist Thibaut and Dawson.

Dawson, like Thibaut, has been working in Republican politics for decades. As the story goes, he entered politics when he saw Mike DeWine speak at a central Ohio hotel where Dawson worked. Without a college degree Dawson was lucky to sign on to the communications team for the Voinovich/DeWIne administration which he used as a stepping stone to become communications director for Senator Mike DeWine. In recent years he’s worked for the politically powerful coal barons at the Boich Group. Not surprisingly, Dawson’s client list has grown in recent months to include charter school and energy companies eager to gain favor with the Kasich administration.

It’s not clear if Dawson is just a clueless tool being used by GTECH or if he intentionally tried to screw the state by delivering language forcing the lottery to contract with his client by a certain date despite the fact that it will most likely cause the state to lose money on the deal.

A longtime follower of Ohio politics familiar with Dawson seems to think it’s the former: “Since Dawson is the one who appears to be doing the heavy lifting maybe stupidity — not greed — is the reason he set up a deal to hurt the state.”

I can’t answer the question for sure but clearly the fault is not Dawson’s alone. Widener and the Senate should never have included this language in the budget without reviewing it and realizing the damaging impact it could have on the state.

Kasich promised to keep the lobbyists and their snouts out of state government, but all he did was bring in his own, much bigger, much hungrier pigs. And he’s got plans to keep them very well fed over the next 4 years.

The troughs are full and the (Republican) pigs are feasting and that seems to be exactly what Kasich and Republican legislators had in mind all along.

 

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