If Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his political handlers and advisers thought the recent dismissal by the Ohio Elections Commission [OEC] was the end of a complaint that showed to what lengths Team Kasich went last year to clear his reelection path of obstacles, including a pesky and potentially troublesome Libertarian Party of Ohio [LPO] candidate, they should heed Yogi Bera’s famous observance of “It ain’t over till it’s over,” because, according to the attorney representing LPO , it ain’t over.
The OEC is charged with enforcing state campaign finance laws and voted 5-2 in May to dismiss a complaint filed a month earlier by LPO alleging collusion and coordination between a long-time friend and political operative of Gov. John Kasich, top officials in the governor’s reelection campaign last year and a powerful attorney. The attorney’s law firm, well connected in Republican circles, was paid $300,000 by the Ohio Republican Party [ORP] to represent a man whose embarrassing testimony in federal court showed he was used as a “guileless dupe” to help Gov. Kasich to an easy primary win by eliminating from the ballot the candidate for The Ohio Libertarian Party, Charlie Earl.
Columbus attorney Mark R. Brown, who filed the complaint along with co-counsel Mark G. Kafantaris and represented LPO at OEC, told reporters following the vote to dismiss that they would talk to Mr. Earl about which legal options to pursue. One option, Mr. Brown said, would be to ask for judicial review; another is Franklin County Common Pleas Court. If it’s the second venue, Kasich players who have escaped scrutiny so far for the roles they played in bouncing Earl off the ballot could be compelled to reveal communications among themselves that provide information attorney Brown believes he’s been denied.
Responding to an inquiry on the status of his conversation with LPO and Charlie Earl, Mark Brown, who occupies the Newton D. Baker/Baker & Hostetler Chair at Capital University Law School, told me the case won’t end at OEC. Mr. Brown informed me that he awaits the next meeting of the OEC in the coming weeks, when a formal notice of dismissal is issued when the seven-member panel approves actions it took in May that included the LPO complaint.
“Then Will seek review in Franklin common pleas,” Mark Brown told me via email last week.
Could Kasich Caper Collapse Campaign?
Gov. Kasich has all but announced his candidacy to be the Republican Party’s nominee next year for the Office of President of the United States. Having tried once before in 2000 and failed, and in the first year of his last term, this is likely his last chance to compete for the office. The fewest percentage of voters since World War II voted last year, and while the governor boasts he won by a big margin, fewer than one in four registered voters actually voted for him. His polling is so low that he risks being embarrassed by not qualifying as one of the ten GOP candidates to be featured in the first debate of the Republican primary season, which kicks off in Cleveland, the most populace county in the Kasich’s home state.
Pursuing the case in court, as the LPO and Brown and Kafantaris intend to do, bodes ill for Team Kasich who wants to keep Mr. Kasich’s image as a “straight talker who rises above politics” and looks to the Lord for guidance unblemished. That notion could end soon if Brown decides to use legal tools some have suggested he use that include Ohio racketeering statues, which could force discovery of records Team Kasich, including the person of interest at the center of the complaint, Terry Casey, the Ohio Republican Party and top officials of the Kasich/Taylor reelection campaign, don’t want to reveal.
“It could be bigger than you think,” one reliable source who knows the parties involved told me, adding, “They [LPO] have the ability to put Kasich cronies under oath for depositions.” The fear for Mr. Brown and LPO is that politics of the style and intensity that Gov. Kasich says he rises above leads to a judge throwing it out before hearings. The GOP is expected to file just such a motion to dismiss. If that happens, Gov. Kasich, his team and cronies will have dodged yet another bullet.
If the case does proceed forward, though, Gov. Kasich and his team will be looking over their collective shoulders at what comes out of the discovery process as the governor tries to sell himself as the candidate to beat Democrats next year. If attorney Mark Brown’s statement to the OEC that Kasich’s Nixonian-style dirty tricks caper is an “iceberg on top of a bigger iceberg,” John Kasich’s “New Day For America” campaign, which just hired two more members, Fred Davis, a media consultant, to help oversee his super PAC, New Day for America and John Weaver, a party strategist, to work on his official campaign, could run into a wall of its own construction as media digs deeper into the governor’s alleged corrupt activities.