A growing cadre of Republicans are asking law enforcement and state ethics organizations to look into allegations that allies of Gov. John Kasich are implementing a conspiracy to win control of the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee by dangling the promise of lucrative state appointments, threatening to remove members from existing state boards and even threatening to get a private company to fire people who refuse to help Kasich topple the party chair.
A prime example of Kasich’s strategy to reward supporters involves his recent pick for head of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).
Given Gov. Kasich’s pledge for a “new day’’ and his disdain for double dippers, it might seem odd that he picked Lynn Slaby, a 73-year-old double-dipping former judge to leave the General Assembly and join the state panel that helps set utility prices.
It might seem even stranger that Slaby admits he knows virtually nothing about utility regulation.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal “He admitted that he doesn’t know much about utility operations in the state, but that he’s fascinated by the challenge and will employ the same skills he used as a judge to analyze facts in issues brought before the commission.”
Guess who is expected to get appointed to Slaby’s House seat? His wife, Marilyn who also sits on the Central Committee.
Marilyn’s family agrees with Kasich that Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine has to go – and Kasich used his power to give the Slaby family things it wanted: A higher paying job for HIM, and a legislative appointment for HER.
Sound familiar? It should.
Last week the Columbus Dispatch revealed that Portage County Republican Party Chair Andy Manning said Kasich allies offered him special influence over gubernatorial appointments if he agreed not to run for the Central Committee. Manning felt so strongly about the incident that he sent a notarized affidavit to state and federal law-enforcement officers “asking them to investigate whether laws were broken in the alleged effort to get him to drop out of the committee race.”
And in yesterday’s Dispatch, Joe Hallett revealed a series of emails between Gary Burkholder, a Republican committee member from Licking county, and Kasich’s close friend and ally Doug Preisse. In the emails, Burkholder accused Kasich’s ”band of advisers” of using threats to try to win votes on the State Central Committee: “Members of the state committee have either been pressured or threatened [and it] continues to happen on a daily basis.”
Today we’re hearing rumors of multiple new ethics complaints against Kasich and his allies being filed with the Ohio Ethics Commission.
According to one complaint, Jai Chabria and Doug Preisse threatened fellow Republican Amy Sabath. Sabeth was told that if she didn’t support Kasich she’d lose her seat on the Lottery Commission and lose her job as a fundraiser for Mike DeWine.
Another complaint alleges that Warren County resident Maggi Cook was told if she didn’t quit the race for Central Committee race she would get fired from her job with Associated Builders and Contractors, an anti-union group that represents the construction industry. She refused and she lost her job.
And more are certainly on the way.
It’s been clear for awhile that Kasich has been using threats and intimation in an attempt to grab more power for himself and his allies. The only real surprise here is that it took Republicans threatened by Kasich so long to finally come forward.
There’s one more interesting angle to this story that seems worth mentioning and it involves Kasich supporter Bryan Williams and the surprising number of connections he has to everything we mentioned above.
Williams is currently a Kasich appointee to the Ohio Board of Education, but in 2004 he was a State Rep. He resigned his seat before the end of his term to take a job as Director of the Summit county BOE. His replacement? Marilyn Slaby.
Then Williams then went to work as the Director of Government Affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Ohio. The same organization that fired Maggi Cook.
And most recently, Williams was in the news as one of the two Kasich allies who tried to get Andy Manning out of the Committee races by offering him “special privileges”.
It’s unclear how Williams fits into the big picture, or what Williams in getting for his service, but as more and more Republicans come forward with their stories of threats and intimidation coming from Kasich’s closest allies, I’m sure Williams’ place will soon become clear.