In July of 2009, Ohio’s Legislature – including the Republican-controlled State Senate – passed Governor Ted Strickland’s budget that included $900 million per year in revenue from Video Lottery Terminals for racetracks.
The VLT plan was quickly put on hold once a group of former Ken Blackwell staffers – including Carlo Loparo – formed a group called LetOhioVote.com and sued to have the VLT plan put up for a vote. LetOhioVote.com, funded by millions of dollars from contributors they refused to name, was formed specifically to kill the plan for raising extra revenue from VLTs so that Strickland would be forced to raise taxes to fill the budget hole.
The plan half worked. The Supreme Court put the VLT plan on hold while LetOhioVote.com gathered signatures to put the issue on the ballot. In the mean time, Governor Strickland found other, non-tax-raising solutions to fill the budget hole.
Faced with a legal challenge from SOS Brunner to turn over the names of their contributors, LetOhioVote.com eventually pulled the issue from the ballot but the budget issues had already been resolved by then without the use of VLTs.
Jump ahead two years.
John Kasich is now Governor. Carlo Loparo is now the Kasich-appointed spokesperson for the Department of Corrections. And Beth Hansen – wife of LetOhioVote’s David Hansen is now Kasich’s Chief-of-Staff.
And Kasich is now facing lawsuits about his own budget.
News came out yesterday that:
A nonprofit organization and seven current and retired state prison employees filed suit Thursday against Gov. John Kasich and other state officials, seeking a court order to halt efforts to sell five state prisons, privatize their operations and lay off state prison workers.
The legal challenge in this case is coming from our friends over at ProgressOhio.
While both budget related, the LetOhioVote.com lawsuit and the ProgressOhio lawsuits have a number of key differences.
Strickland’s budget was really bipartisan – having been passed by a Republican-controlled Senate and Dem-held House. Kasich’s budget was forced through by all Republicans.
LetOhioVote’s intentions were purely political: to screw up Strickland’s budget planning, hoping he’d be forced to raise taxes, thereby decreasing his chance of reelection. But ProgressOhio’s lawsuit, while focused specifically on the constitutionality of the prison privatization plan, appears to have much more positive intentions including the protection of corrections officer jobs and the well-known safety issues surrounding prison privatization.
The differences are important here. But the similarities are still hard to miss unless, of course, you work for Governor Kasich.
When faced with legal challenges to their budget that are very similar to the legal challenges posed by their own people two years earlier, the responses from Kasich’s people – especially Carlo LoParo – have been quite hypocritical and bordering on hilarious.
LoParo, who spent most of 2009 and 2010 defending LetOhioVote’s highly-partisan lawsuits against Strickland’s bipartisan budget had this to say about Progress Ohio’s lawsuit:
“This is exactly what you would expect from the overtly partisan ProgressOhio,” said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “Our effort to seek proposals for privatization has been open, fair and legislatively sanctioned,”
Seriously, Carlo? Seriously? I’m pretty sure I wrote nearly the same response to your LetOhioVote lawsuit two years ago.
And Kasich’s response was almost as ridiculous:
Kasich press secretary Rob Nichols said, “We don’t comment on pending legislation.”
Regardless of how you define ‘pending legislation’, Nichols and Kasich have never had any problem commenting on legislation at any step in the process.
Before it passed, Kasich spent weeks trying to sell his budget bill to anyone who would listen. And since it’s passed, Kasich has been talking non-stop about it. He’s gone on national television and raved about his budget bill. He went on the radio last week and provided the GOP’s national radio address and almost all he talked about was the budget bill.
You can’t shut John Kasich up when it comes to the budget bill. Or SB5. Or anything else for that matter.
John Kasich comments on EVERYTHING – including pending legislation.
Nichols has the discipline to stay on message and avoid commenting on the ProgressOhio lawsuit. Kasich has absolutely no self control or discipline or filter.
I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Kasich has already given some reporter a quote about the lawsuit – all while his press secretary continues to say his office doesn’t comment and his highly-partisan Corrections spokesman whines about partisan attacks.
Oh! And by the way: Kasich rolled out HIS plan to implement VLTs at race tracks last week with no protests from Loparo or Chief-of-Staff Hansen’s husband David.