Joe Hallet of the Dispatch reported this morning that a Republican Central Committee member sent a letter to the FBI, the Ohio Inspector General and other state and local law enforcement agencies asking them to investigate John Kasich and his allies for their attempts to pressure him out of the Central Committee race.

According to Andrew Manning, Portage County Republican Party Chairman, Kasich representatives Alex Arshinkoff (Summit County GOP Chairman) and Bryan Williams (Ohio Board of Education), asked him to withdraw from the Central Committee race in exchange for “influence”:

“Had I agreed to withdraw as a candidate, they told me I would be designated as the ‘Governor’s Guy’ in Portage County and that I would be given influence in who Gov. Kasich appoints to Kent State University boards and other state government appointments as they come open.

Manning also claimed he was under ““relentless” pressure from two former governor’s office employees, Ben Kaiser and David Luketic.”.

We’ve written for months about the battle between Team Kasich and Team DeWine. We’ve also written about the threats and intimidation Kasich uses on those who cross him , and the lavish benefits he bestows on his close friends.

We’ve known this type of thing has been going on since before Kasich even took office. I think the big surprise here is that it took this long for someone to publicly come forward.

Manning described the offer as a “quid pro quo.” He told the Dispatch, “In my opinion, I felt it was unethical and it crossed the line, but I don’t know about it being against the law.”

So, what is the answer? Is it against the law?

I asked a friend of the blog for some advice on the matter (no, not Modern Equire). And I thought I’d share the response:

At quick glance, few statutes apply.

The first possibility is bribery. R.C. 2921.02 prohibits a person, with the purpose to influence a party official, from promising or offering “valuable thing or valuable benefit.”

So, the question is whether the ability to influence appointments is a thing of value? On the one hand, the answer may be yes. As Governor Blago in Illinois illustrated eloquently, you don’t just f’n “give away” the power to make an appointment. On the other hand, the ability to have input in an appointment may be too attenuated to constitute a “thing of value.”

The same issues generally arise under federal laws. Our experience is that the feds won’t be too interested unless there is a broad pattern of corruption.

The more applicable statute may be R.C. 2921.43, soliciting or accepting improper compensation. This statute provides that a public servant may not “solicit or accept anything of value in consideration of . . . appointing or securing, maintaining, or renewing the appointment of any person to any public office, employment, or agency.”

The allegation under 2921.43 would be that the Kasich team solicited Manning to violate this state. The problem with a prosecution under this statute is that Manning was asked to give up something of value for the benefit of securing appointments to public jobs.”

If (big “if,” as no evidence suggests this at this time) things were tied to Kasich, then we also could consider Ohio’s Ethics laws. R.C. 102.03 (D) prohibits a public official from using the authority or influence of his office “to secure anything of value . . . that is of such a character as to manifest a substantial and improper influence upon the public official or employee with respect to that person’s duties.” The question here will be whether Kasich used his appointment power to secure control of the State Central Committee. Is control of the State Central Committee a “thing of value.” I don’t think we have a good answer, but it would be a stretch. Usually a “thing of value” is money, although small benefits like frequent flyer miles have also been found to be a “thing of value.”

The bottom line: the political optics here are pretty awful. A criminal prosecution may be hard to pursue, but not impossible. The key will be whether more people come forward with more specific allegations.

Was it illegal? Possibly. Will King Kasich be dethroned for this one incident? Probably not.

My hope, however, is that others will see Manning standing up to Kasich and finally be motivated to act. Kasich’s continued attempts to grab power have angered many in his own party. It’s only a matter of time before others get angry enough to come forward and tell their own stories of intimidation and threats by Kasich and his team. Hopefully Manning’s call for an investigation will be the kick-start needed for others to stand up and say: “enough is enough!”