On April 16, 2009, the Columbus Dispatch ran a piece titled:

Private lawyer helped craft school plan, GOP questions cost, suspects subterfuge

The article is basically a collection of statements from Republicans railing against Governor Strickland over the hiring of a private attorney to help work on budget language. The attorney, hired from Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, was paid $49,275 to help craft the school funding language in Governor Strickland’s budget.

And, as the headline suggests, the article deals with criticisms from Republicans about the need, cost and lack of transparency associated with hiring outside counsel to assist with the development of budget language.

Jon Allison, Taft’s former chief of staff, questioned the cost: “the main question is whether the cost of outside lawyers can be justified.”

Then-House Minority Leader William G. Batchelder claimed hiring an outside attorney to work on the budget was “unprecedented”. And he was “concerned that it was done to shield parts of the education-plan formulation from the public.” His claim is based on the fact that the $49K cost for the lawyer was just under the $50K that would have required controlling board approval.

Lobbyist (and former Voinovich press secretary) Mike Dawson even jumped at the chance to provide his input: “Never, he said, did the [Voinovich] administration use outside lawyers to craft any legislative proposal.”

WOW! It sounds like hiring a private lawyer to help you work on your budget is a really horrible thing. Right?

Funny story…

During the development of Kasich’s budget, the Office of Budget and Management hired a private attorney from EXACTLY the same law firm for almost EXACTLY the same cost to do almost EXACTLY the same thing.

Records obtained by Plunderbund from the Ohio Attorney General’s office show that on March 30th, 2011 the AG hired an attorney from Squire, Sanders & Dempsey (same law firm) for $49,000 (nearly the same cost) to “provide legal services [to OBM] for statutory language” (the same purpose).

The only difference is that Strickland’s lawyer was trying to make our school funding model constitutional and Kasich’s lawyer is working on the “monetization of state assets” – i.e. selling off the Ohio Turnpike, Ohio Lottery, state liquor profits and state prisons in exchange for one time money.

We’re following up with Batch and Kasich for a response. We’ll provide updates as they come in.

In the mean time, chew on this:

Mike Dawson, the former Voinovich staffer mentioned above, has been working as a lobbyist for many years. Most recently he’s come to our attention because he personally wrote language to privatize the lottery and had it inserted into the latest budget on behalf of his client GTECH, one of the two companies vying for the lottery privatization contract.

It would seem that a Democratic Governor paying experts to help craft complex legislation in order to bring Ohio’s school funding model into line with the Ohio Constitution is an unprecedented attempt to hide important information from the public and a complete waste of money.

But a Republican administration hiring a private lawyer from the same company, for the same cost, to help write budget language to sell off state assets is just fine?And having Republican lobbyists write legislation to sell off state assets to their own clients – legislation that will make their clients millions and millions of dollars – is just business as usual?

Unprecedented? Let’s talk about unethical. Or unconscionable. Or downright un-fucking-believable!