Two Republican staff members received a combined $210,000 to serve for three months has the secretaries for the Legislative Task Force on Redistricting. While it was assumed that both staff members would serve in their positions as state employees, instead the Republican members of the Task Force entered into contracts with their respective private companies and paid them $105,000 a piece.
Documents included in the Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report show that both Heather Mann and Ray DiRossi entered into contracts with the Task Force to be paid $105,000 a piece. Republican members on the task force entered into contracts with Policy Widgets, LLC and Capital Advantage, LLC, which were companies Mann and DiRossi established.
Both staffers were veteran legislative staffers who had served for years in the General Assembly. DiRossi had served in both the House and the Senate as a fiscal analyst for the Republican caucuses. Mann had served in the House of Representatives for the Republican caucus as a policy staffer.
For Mann the whole series of events happen quickly. The documents show that on August 1st her company, Policy Widgets was incorporated with the State, on the 3rd she signed a contract with the task force to pay her $105,000, on the 4th she officially left the House of Representatives, and on the 5th she started for Policy Widgets.
The documents also show that Mann returned to her position with the Republican caucus at the House immediately following her time spent as secretary to the Task Force. Mann left the House of Representatives on August 4th and then started receiving paychecks once again from the House on November 19th. Mann’s salary increased over six fold during her time spent working for the task force.
Prior to serving as a secretary to the task force DiRossi was appointed to the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Review and Advisor Council more commonly known as TRAC. The council is charged with overseeing transportation project selection process within the Department of Transportation.
While Mann and DiRossi were suppose to be acting as the secretaries of the task force and were reported to have “drawn the lines” other documents show how they were simply at the whims of lawmakers who were really drawing the lines. The report includes multiple emails where Republican lawmakers and other Republican political operatives were directing Mann and DiRossi on exactly what they were to do.
What might be the most worrying aspect is that neither Mann nor DiRossi seem to have any experiences in their respective pastes involving redistricting. Neither was involved with the last redistricting effort in Ohio 10 years ago nor do they seem to be experts on the subject. While both had extensive political ties to the members on the task force, there isn’t any evidence that they were selected because of their expertise on the issue. This whole episode seems to have been an effort on behalf of Republicans to enrich long time staff members for their loyalty instead of using this money to execute the duties of the task force.
What ended up happening was that state house Republicans used their power on the committee to move a long time Republican donor into a friendlier congressional district, draw the lines to the save the Republican party millions in future elections, and disenfranchise millions of Ohio voters. If the movement to create a more equitable redistricting process wanted to find a better example of how the system is corrupt and broken I don’t think they could have.
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