It’s no secret that John Kasich wants to run for president — again. He can’t admit that now because he’s running for re-election, and that’s like asking Ohioans for their votes but telling them you have NO PLANS to serve the full term. So his allies (none more vociferous and vocal than The Columbus Dispatch) are talking a lot about his potential run and the mandate he’s seeking and making all sorts of noises about what a fine nation we’d have if only Kasich’s policies were in place.

To run, he needs to get re-elected governor. He also needs a good record. He doesn’t have one. He continues to boast that he’s turned around Ohio, but lots of independent studies show that’s BS.  A July study by NPR’s Planet money showed Ohio ranks 41st in post-recession job growth. And recent poll shows that voters see the economy as the No. 1 issue this election. If the economy was really humming along as Kasich says, it would NOT be the No. 1 issue.

So what’s an aspiring President to do? Well, hire a rightwing economist to do a fake study that shows just how swell Ohio is doing, market that study as an “independent” one and leak it to an out-of-town business reporter who is too inept or too lazy to learn about the folks who paid for it.

As we learned this week from The Plain Dealer, that’s exactly what Team Kasich has done.

A shady new, pro-Kasich front group, American Freedom Builders, paid for a study that raves about a tax-cut plan being pushed by Kasich. It concludes that additional income tax cuts would create more jobs and increase income. Sounds like the Kasich-for-president fellas (and yes, the VAST MAJORITY are fellas) are planning to run as a tax-cutter.

Despite all of the GOP denials that Freedom Builders is really about building up Kasich, there is one BIG reason to be very suspicious of that claim: Mark Kvamme is on the Freedom Builders’ board.

Kvamme and Kasich go way back – and Kvamme was part of Kasich’s short-lived presidential campaign in 2000. He and wife No. 1 gave $110,000 to the New Century Funds, entities set up to keep Kasich’s political team busy between runs for public office, according to the Plain Dealer. Once elected governor, Kasich breathlessly tapped Kvamme to lead JobsOhio, his public/private economic development agency that is a self-dealing, self-policing outfit that a Toledo Blade investigation found exaggerates the number of jobs it has created.

The usually talkative Kvamme has suddenly gone silent and won’t say a peep about American Freedom Builders or his role in it. Does he help the group raise money or at least ID folks who would give it? Have donors included people whose companies benefitted from JobsOhio?

Reporters need to ask. Kvamme  needs to answer.