The Dispatch reported (read: buried) two interesting facts today that should have all Ohioans extremely worried:

  1. JobsOhio is operating completely on private donations
  2. JobsOhio is paying for Kasich’s trip to Switzerland later this month – along with any family, friends or staff he feels like taking along

Here the problem: because JobsOhio is not subject to public record requests, we have no idea who is donating the money to pay for this trip or to pay for the rest of JobsOhio’s operating expenses.

Could the money be coming from American Greetings, the company that received over $90 million in incentives from the Kasich administration?  Or from another company competing for state incentives?   Or maybe from a big Kasich campaign donor trying to circumvent campaign finance laws?  Maybe a large lobbying firm?

We don’t know.  And we won’t know because JobsOhio is a big, opaque, public-records black hole – just like Kasich intended.

The loophole to allow the Governor or any of his designees to circumvent existing ethics restrictions on free travel was written into state law when the JobsOhio bill was passed.   And while the amount of the expenses will need to be disclosed in JobsOhio’s yearly report next year, there is no requirement to ever release information on the private donors.

Late last year JobsOhio started running ads around Ohio discussing John Kasich’s economic “successes”.  These campaign-like ads also appear to have been funded with secret private donations.

Kasich claimed records at JobsOhio needed to be hidden from public view in order to protect “trade secrets” but we find it amazingly difficult to understand what trade secrets might be divulged by identifying the people or groups paying for the Governor’s television ads and his foreign travel.

In 2005, Governor Taft pleaded no contest to criminal charges over illegally accepting and failing to report gifts, including golf outings and meals, from lobbyists and business owners.  It seems Governor Kasich may have worked out a way to get the same perks from similar folks without any of those silly ethics restrictions getting in the way.