On Thursday, the Ohio Elections Commission will hear the complaint filed by the Ohio Libertarian Party alleging violations of Ohio campaign finance laws. Instead of dismissing the case, as has been asked by Terry Casey, a long-time political crony of Gov. John R. Kasich who plead guilty to violating campaign finance laws in 1992, and who again finds himself at the center of another lapse of ethics and campaign finance situation, OEC should either set a formal hearing to learn more or forward the case to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien.
Central in the complaint is the allegation that Terry Casey colluded with top officials of Gov. Kasich’s reelection campaign to assure Gov. Kasich a smooth, unchallenged ride to victory through the primary season by forcing LPO’s gubernatorial candidate, Charlie Earl, off the ballot. It was feared that Earl would draw votes away from the governor, and that if the General Election in the fall was close, that might be enough to give the victory to the Democratic candidate.
OEC Should Do The Right Thing
Not named in the complaint but a player nonetheless, is Matt Borges, Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. He is indirectly implicated in the scheme to get Charlie Earl off the ballot, thereby guaranteeing Gov. Kasich an easy victory. Gov. Kasich is now running for president in 2016, and even though he’s still not a declared his candidate, taking this case to the next level could provide embarrassing moments for him, as he talks about what god wants him to do and how he brings people together, all the while pretending he’s above politics.
If Mr. Casey gets his wish, and walks away Scott Free, maybe State Auditor Dave Yost, who made news recently saying he wants to take the fight against public corruption to the next level, should take on the case if OEC agrees with Casey’s filing to dismiss it.
Another factor some see as troubling involves Mr. Casey’s attorney, John Zeiger, a powerful lawyer with powerful clients sympathetic to Gov. Kasich, including a major Columbus newspaper. It was only after Federal Judged Watson directed him to reveal the name of his so-called “Confidential Client” that he named Mr. Casey as that client. It’s unclear whether Mr. Zeiger has violated any legal cannons of ethics through his service to Mr. Casey and to the person he represented on whose behalf he filed a challenge to Charlie Earl that turned out to be successful. According to one reliable source, Mr. Zeiger’s vulnerability could be allowing false testimony. If he knew that the Ohio Republican Party would pay the bill, the testimony given by Mr. Borges, the party’s chairman, denying involvement opens the door to further investigation of both Borges and Zeiger. Previously, Mr. Borges told the media in an on-camera interview last year that ORP instigated the challenge to Earl’s signatures. Later, in Federal Court, he testified differently.
Republican Secretary of State John Husted had already certified Earl’s signatures and filing documents and placed him on the 2014 primary ballot. Then, it reversed that decision and removed Mr. Earl from the ballot in March 2014 after the Republican challenge was filed.
Plunderbund reported on the complaint filed on April 15th by Mark Brown, an attorney representing the LPO and Mr. Earl, who lives in Wood County near Toledo and who is not expected to be at the OEC meeting Thursday, according to Mr. Brown. The LPO complaint notes that Terry Casey, a former leader of the Franklin County GOP who possessed strong fundraising skills, and who Team Kasich-appointed Chair of the Ohio State Personnel Review Board early in 2011, agreed to pay the Columbus law firm of Zeiger, Tigges & Little more than $250,000 for orchestrating a procedural challenge to Earl’s signature petitions. It’snow known that, in multiple payments, ORP paid Mr. Zeiger’s firm a total of $300,000.
It’s clear from Mr. Casey’s deposition that he was in touch on more than one occasion with Kasich campaign staff, including campaign manager Matt Carle, to hire the firm to convince a Libertarian primary voter to sign their challenge against Earl’s candidacy. In the complaint, LPO said the cost of legal services should have been declared as contribution to Kasich’s campaign. Earl’s complaint asks that the OEC fine both Casey and the Kasich campaign for breaking Ohio campaign contribution limits and for failing to disclose an in-kind contribution.
“It is the height of irony and hypocrisy when the Kasich campaign or its representatives spends over a quarter million undisclosed dollars to promote the enforcement of an arcane and ambiguous law denying our ballot status. They cavalierly violated the letter and spirit of Ohio election law to serve their own purposes,” Earl in said in a statement today. “Once again, Ohioans are witnessing the arrogance of those who make the laws believing that they can ignore the law with impunity.”
In a filing to OEC by Mr. Casey, he “prays that the Complaint of Charlie Earl be dismissed and requests the Commission order Mr. Earl to pay Mr. Casey’s reasonable attorney’s fees and the costs of these proceedings.” According to OEC’S director and staff attorney, only twice in the last 20 years has it hired a special investigator. One of those two times involved Mr. Casey, who pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws over 20 years ago. The commission, which has seen its budget cut and hopes to continue to be flat funded in the next biennial budget, would let Mr. Casey and his alleged co-conspirators get away Scott Free if they dismissed the case.
In separate motions filed earlier this month by Mr. Casey and Gov. Kasich’s campaign, the public now learns that the Ohio Republican Party made three separate payments to the law firm of Zeiger, Tigges and Little between November 2014 and February of this year. Reports say those payments were documented on campaign finance reports submitted to the Ohio secretary of state’s office. By paying Mr. Zeiger’s bill for services, Mr. Casey believes the matter is settled and everyone associated with derailing Mr. Earl from getting on the ballot should not be pursued. Sources familiar with the history of Mr. Casey and Mr. Borges, who like Casey has a rap sheet involving previous violations of campaign finance laws, believe the case is ripe and ready to have Ohio’s RICO law, which mirrors the tough and powerful federal law, applied to it.
Absurd On Its Face
To believe that anyone would engage a high-priced attorney, who wants and law says must be paid, without any funds to pay for those services, is absurd on its face, given the cast of characters who have made their political reputations, built their networks of influence and earned their livelihood from bare knuckle politics over the course of their professional careers. More troubling is Mr. Zeiger, whose conduct some say should be questioned by the Ohio Supreme Court’s misconduct division for violations of legal cannons of ethics.
The OEC should at minimum set the case for a formal hearing, wherein the defendants should withstand more discovery, potentially gathering information not yet known that could confirm what Mr. Casey says didn’t happen, namely, he did it all himself, being the self-proclaimed “self-starter” he is. The OEC could skip its formal hearing and forward the case to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, a Republican, who could apply Ohio’s RICO law—Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—if he wanted dirty tricksters to be brought to justice.
Allegations under the jurisdiction of OEC that are at issue through LPO’s complaint include the following:
§3517.092 (PROHIBITED SOLICITATION OF CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS)
- 3517.10(A) & (B) (FAILURE TO FILE COMPLETE AND ACCURATE STATEMENTS)
- 3517.102(B)(1) (EXCEEDING CONTRIBUTION LIMITS)
- 3517.13(A) (FAILURE TO FILE A COMPLETE AND ACCURATE STATEMENT)
- 3517.13(G) (CONCEALMENT AND\OR MISREPRESENTATION OF CONTRIBUTIONS AND\OR EXPENDITURES)
Defendants named in the complaint filed by Earl include: Terry Casey, Kasich/Taylor For Ohio, John Kasich, Governor, Mary Taylor, Lieutenant Governor, Matt Carle, Campaign Director, Kasich/Taylor for Ohio, Jeff Polesovsky, Kasich/Taylor For Ohio, Dave Luketic, Kasich/Taylor For Ohio.
Mr. Borges, who Gov. Kasich hand selected to replace Kevin DeWine in a palace coup orchestrated in 2011 that dethroned the state party chairman who oversaw a successful and clean sweep of all race in 2010 and who had no prior convictions, is not a defendant in the LPO complaint. A loyal political linebacker, Mr. Boges at first said ORP was involved but then corrected himself and said it wasn’t. He was deposed, and while his testimony stumbles around, the now acknowledge payment to attorney Zeiger will only confirm to some, despite ORP statements to the contrary, that Mr. Casey did conspire with Mr. Borges and the other named defendants to get Mr. Earl out of the race at all costs.
In 2004, Mr. Borges pleaded guilty to one count of improper use of public office, a misdemeanor. He was fined $1,000 by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Eileen Gallagher. Court documents indicated he gave preferential treatment to certain brokers, Cleveland broker Frank Gruttadauria, specifically, who made contributions to his boss’s re-election campaign.