The Columbus Dispatch beat us to the punch (darn you, Joe Vardon). The Republican Governors Association is running ads under the committee name “Make Ohio Great” that will promote Kasich’s agenda.
Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for the RGA, said in an email to The Dispatch last night that Make Ohio Great is “connected to the RGA and was formed to support all of Gov. Kasich’s agenda.”
“In fact, when you watch the first ad … you’ll see that SB 5 isn’t even mentioned,” Schrimpf said.
Media buys for both Building a Better Ohio and Make Ohio Great were made by Strategic Media Placement, which is tied to Kasich’s media consultant Rex Elsass.
Rex Elsass is a major media buyer for Republican causes, so it’s not that unusual to see his consultancy firm is involved in both media buys. However, coordination of messaging between the two would be strictly forbidden, which is precisely why the Building a Better Ohio campaign spends the majority of the column denying any knowledge of the existence of such a group. Because any connection between the two would look really poor. I mean, only an idiot would not realize that and do something that creates the impression of a link between the two, right?
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Kasich, referred questions regarding Make Ohio Great to [Building a Better Ohio Communication Director Jason] Mauk. Elsass did not return a phone message seeking comment.
The RGA spend over $9 million in helping John Kasich get elected, fuel in part by over a million in donations from News Corporation, Fox News’ parent company. The RGA’s ad buy in Columbus is reportedly as big as We Are Ohio’s and Building a Better Ohio’s ad campaign that will start today. Think about that. John Kasich is only nine months into his term, and the RGA is spending as much as the two Issue 2 campaigns are. They’re trying to protect their investment in Kasich. Having seen his approval ratings stuck in the mid-30s as 50% or more disapprove of his performance, even though the RGA has an actual gubernatorial race in Kentucky this November that it hasn’t done an ad buy for since July. With less than a month until the October 4th special election in West Virginia, the RGA is spending money in Ohio instead of using it to help the Republican candidate close his double digit gap in the polls.
Despite the fact that Kasich’s budget has been running a deficit and unemployment has gone up two straight months (and expected to go up again in August) in Ohio, Kasich’s chief-of-staff, Beth Hansen, is taking a leave of absence to work on the Building a Better Ohio’s paid media strategy. That doesn’t leave many left in the actual Governor’s office. Many of Kasich’s closest aides are either moonlighting as consultants to the Building a Better Ohio campaign (such as “Special Assistant” Jai Chabria), or on a total leave of absence.
The fact that the RGA is spending money in Ohio just a year after spending $9 million to elect Kasich is a testament to how far Kasich has fallen public opinion wise. They’re trying to lift Kasich’s approval rating up because it’s a major liability to the Issue 2 campaign.
Meanwhile Building a Better Ohio will launch their first ad of the campaign season today and it will feature SB 5 apologist/Toledo Mayor Mike Bell (I), who used to be an union firefighter, but is a current double (maybe even triple) dipper.
Bell’s support for SB 5 is hardly news. He appeared in a pro-SB 5 YouTube video Governor Kasich’s office put out in March to show that local officials supported SB 5 (except it featured only three and Bell was the only non-Republican):
Bell will be up for re-election in 2013. He’s done great things for the City of Toledo, like having the Toledo Police Department guard the city’s pet rock while shootings in the city flared.