The Toledo Blade – usually known for solid reporting – published a shoddy series last week that suggested former Gov. Ted Strickland decided which businesses got taxpayer-financed incentives based on which gave political contributions to his campaigns.  Reporter Kris Turner not only based his conclusion on no evidence, he also glossed over or ignored facts that contradict his conclusion.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the series let Gov. Kasich’s mouthpiece get away with insisting he would never stoop to such lows.

The Blade series in a nutshell:

“People employed at businesses that received more than $327 million in loans and grants from the former Ohio Department of Development contributed more than $11.3 million to state politicians, their campaigns, and political groups during the last decade.

A Blade investigation that began in June found employees at 495 companies that received state funding since July, 2007, contributed an average of $22,864 per firm. Those companies received incentives valued at $512,627 on average.’’

Gov. Strickland’s campaigns received the largest slice of money, the Blade said. (More later on the fallacy of that assertion).

The Blade allowed a Kasich flack to say this:

“The agency doesn’t pay attention to — or even care — who makes political contributions, and that’s consistent regardless of the party in power,” Todd Walker, Ohio Development Services Agency spokesman, said in a statement released to The Blade. “The focus is job creation and contractual covenants regarding conflicts of interest.”

Nothing wrong with giving Kasich a chance to comment but it’s wrong to ignore a flurry of well-documented blog posts and newspaper stories proving the focus has NOT been on job creation — and conflicts of interest are rampant.

The Dayton Daily News unearthed this conflict:

“Kasich is shifting job creation efforts to the new nonprofit, JobsOhio, and in July named a high-powered board of directors that includes chief executives of companies that received state incentive offers just three months earlier: Marathon Petroleum in Findlay and Bob Evans Farms in Columbus.

“Janetta King of Innovation Ohio, a liberal think tank based in Columbus, called it ‘an absolute inherent conflict of interest’ that Steven Davis of Bob Evans and Gary Heminger of Marathon are on the JobsOhio board while their companies continue to receive state money.”

Now for the job creation claims:

The Kasich Administration cited the massive corporate aid package it gave Diebold for its new world HQ as one of its crowning achievements.  To hear Kasich tell it, Diebold was practically out the door on its way to North Carolina until his administration fashioned a corporate aid package that would construct a brand new corporate headquarters.

According to a follow-up in The Plain Dealer:

“Diebold has changed its mind about building a $100 million global headquarters, but said it is committed to staying in the City of Green.”

A year after offering Diebold a jaw-dropping “job retention package,” Diebold had to back out of the deal because it couldn’t deliver on the promise not to slice its Ohio workforce by more than 20%.

The Canton Repository reported that Diebold wasn’t even serious about leaving.

“We were serious … (and) the offers that we got were very compelling,” Diebold spokesman Mike Jacobsen said. “We’ve got a lot of customers who we would be closer to from either one of those states.”

“However, Diebold had not advanced far in dealings with North Carolina or Virginia. And the money it is getting in Ohio is substantially more than was offered by either of those two states.”

Now back to Kasich’s bogus assertion of job creation.  Joseph showed the Diebold deal is part of a pattern that proves Ohio’s economy is improving in spite of Kasich.  He also showed that corporate welfare in Ohio has reached a new low.

As Joseph told us:

“This week, Kasich saw another jewel of his economic development crown get tarnished.  American Greetings received a whopping  $93.5 million in State incentives to move their headquarters from Brooklyn Ohio to Westlake.   Shortly after the incentives were announced, the company proceeded to lay off workers and give CEO Zev Weiss a big raise.   This week American Greetings announced it too would be delaying the construction of its new headquarters because the CEO and his family members are trying to buy the public company and make it private.”

By its own admission, The Blade worked on the series for more than 7 months – a remarkable allocation of manpower even in good times for newspapers.

During those seven months, cracks in Kasich’s well-sculpted image as a forthright budget hawk began to emerge. He signaled that his love of privatization was motivated not by concern over intellectual property but by a disdain for the media. As he led efforts to take money out of the pockets of teachers, cops and firefighters – he showered corporate Ohio with incentives that even had them blush.

Two corporate titans topped the new governor’s enemies’ list: Scotts Miracle-Grow CEO Jim Hagedorn and American Electric Power Chairman Michael Morris. Hagedorn appeared in a TV commercial for Gov. Strickland and Morris withdrew from the Ohio Chamber after it endorsed Kasich with help from a strangely questionable process.

The two past Strickland allies co-chaired a campaign created to crusade for passage of Kasich’s first two-year budget.  By creating it as an informational campaign, not a political one,  the effort could legally raise unlimited corporate money from undisclosed donors. This is an important piece of information overlooked by The Blade.

The Blade trumpeted in a headline and news story that Gov. Strickland’s successful run in 2006 and unsuccessful re-election effort in 2010 had him sitting atop the list of folks who got money from businesses receiving state incentives.  Gov. Kasich placed a close second even though he had been Ohio’s CEO half the time.

Strickland’s two statewide campaigns received $736,059, while Kasich’s one campaign collected $664,030 — a difference of just $72,029.  Without cooperation from the secretive governor or the secretive campaign, it is impossible to discern whether the Hagedorn/Morris enterprise collected the $72,030 needed to put Kasich at the top of the donor list. It is a legitimate question, if not a safe bet, for several reasons:

  • One day after winning the election, Kasich bragged that if people did not “get on the bus,’’ he would “run them over.’’ Columbus insiders speculated that the threat was aimed at folks like Morris and Hagedorn .
  • Capital Square was abuzz with rumors that Kasich allies pitched the pro-budget campaign as a way for Morris and Hagedorn to “get out of the penalty box.’’

Gov. Strickland wrote a rebuttal to The Blade series and his rebuttal raised a vital point:

“Your series also needed to explain why — according to your own research — most firms that received incentives made no political donations at all.”

Good point, Gov. Strickland.