In the course of Wednesday’s press conference held at Ohio Democratic Party headquarters in downtown Columbus, party Chairman Rep. Chris Redfern didn’t mince words about what he said has been an evolving story of what Gov. Kasich and top echelon members of his staff knew about Ben Suarez, a wealthy Republican benefactor whose quid-pro-quo “pay to play” relationship with Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and Gov. Kasich emerged during a trial about political favors asked for by the Canton businessman and subsequently delivered by Mandel and Kasich.
Stern-faced and speaking in a slow deliberate manner, Mr. Redfern repeatedly called responses given by Gov. Kasich’s press secretary, that first denied then downplayed the governor’s knowledge of Suarez and his campaign contributions, lies. Based on a string of email correspondence sent between March 29, 2011 and June 24, 2014 to and from key Kasich staffers like his Chief of Staff Beth Hanson and the governor’s Chief Legal Counsel Michael Grodhaus, Redfern said the governor must explain what happened between these dates that caused them to change their story about intervening on Suarez’s behalf.
To watch Redfern make his case and answer reporter questions, OhioNewsBureau has it here.
“To suggest the chief legal counsel to the governor, not the state of Ohio, but to the governor, did not know the magnitude of Suarez’s involvement in the campaign is, frankly, a lie,” Redfern said. “We would have to believe that the governor’s lawyer would write a letter … and to make that initiative on his own,” he said defies common sense. The emails provided to reporters today make a case that implicates Grodhaus and his assistant chief counsel, a key member of John Kasich’s 2010 election run, as both intimately involved in pushing the State of California for Suarez, , who wanted Mandel and Kasich to intervene on his behalf with California authorities with respect to a soon to be lawsuit about his firm’s advertising and sales practices.
The long awaited pubic records request, Redfern said, makes it “abundantly clear that the letter Grodhaus sent to Suarez was a “smoke screen” to create plausible deniability that the Kasich administration’s most senior staffers on the official side were engaged in an attempt to help out a major campaign donor. “The evidence is quite clear,” he said.
Sometimes starring at one reporter in particular who works for the Columbus Dispatch, a paper that loves Gov. Kasich and ran a political push-poll last Sunday showing Kasich with a questionable 30 point lead, Redfern said, “Time and time again the Kasich Administration has told one lie after another about its attempt to help Ben Suarez, and the cover up continued.” The plucky chairman, known for his sharpened acerbic tongue, said “it’s absolutely absurd to think that Beth Hanson and Hartley were kept in the loop for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with Suarez’s status as a major donor to the 2010 Kasich campaign.”
He toyed with Rob Nichols, Gov. Kasich’s press secretary whose reputation of giving nonsense responses that changed later is well known, saying his comment that Grodhaus’ activity was “nothing more than perfunctory, garden variety case work” was a lie. “Let’s be clear, the chief legal counsel is not involved in garden variety case work … and the average constituent does not have the governor’s personal cell phone number.” What Grodhaus did was not garden variety case work, he said. “It was, however, the very kind of garden variety corruption we’ve come to expect from this administration and other statewide elected officials who have been cornered on their own lies and deception,” Redfern said, adding, “This has becoming an all too familiar pattern with this administration.”
Redfern then ticked off other instances where Kasich communicators have mislead or lied to Ohioans, including lying about plans to allow fracking in state parks, the reasons why Kasich’s first EPA Administrator suddenly resigned and dropped out of sight.
“It’s time for this administration to stop hiding and stop lying about what it has done, and has been doing with Kasich’s major campaign donors and start being held accountable for pay to play politics.”