Mark Brown is the Capital Law School attorney representing the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) and it’s candidate for governor last year, Charlie Earl. He just filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that might better be called “John Kasich and the Tower of Secrets.”
Brown is appealing the Ohio Elections Commission‘s dismissal of a complaint filed by the LPO in May. The complaint involved a long-time friend and political operative of Gov. John Kasich who is believed to have collaborated and colluded with the Ohio Republican Party and top officials in Kasich’s reelection campaign to dump Earl from the ballot in order to pad the governor’s victory margin. In his appeal, Mr. Brown shows the case isn’t dead yet. In fact, if it gets traction, it would reveal the dark side of how Kasich plays to win even when that means violating rules and laws to do it.
In an email to me Wednesday, Mr. Brown said Judge Patrick Sheeran will hear his administrative appeal of OEC’s 5-2 vote to dismiss the case. The filing comes at a potentially awkward and possibly bad time for Gov. Kasich, who has set July 21st as the date he’ll make his official announcement that he’s joining the Oklahoma land rush of Republican candidates who want to be the nominee to run for president next year.
“We are now in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas appealing the OEC’s dismissal. Just filed yesterday,” Brown informed me.
NOTICE OF APPEAL FROM DECISION AND FINDING
The appeal is taken pursuant to O.R.C. § 3517.157(D) and O.R.C. § 119.12 on questions of both law and fact on the grounds that the Commission’s decision is not supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence and is not in accordance with law,” the court filing says.
Charlie Earl, who polls last year showed could take about six percent of primary voters, among them many Tea Party voters who turned on Gov. Kasich over many issues, the biggest one being his expansion of Medicaid as provided by the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Earl’s candidacy would have mattered, had Kasich ended up in close race with his Democratic challenger, Ed FitzGerald, so political allies of the governor wanted to plow the path of obstacles.
Gov. Kasich and his team knew long ago they wanted to run for president next year, so winning a second term with a big margin was all the more important. Bumping Mr. Earl off the ballot, therefore, became a strategy Kasich’s political entourage sought to achieve however they could.
In the filing provided me by Mr. Brown, the following assertions are made:
(1) That the Commission erred in finding that a preponderance of the evidence failed to support Appellant’s claim that Terry Casey delivered an unreported and excessive in-kind contribution to John Kasich’s campaign committee;
(2) That the Commission erred in construing and applying Chapter 3517 of Ohio’s Revised
(3) That the Commission erred in finding that a preponderance of the evidence established that the Ohio Republican Party’s payment of $300,000 on Terry Casey’s behalf covered the total amount of Terry Casey’s excessive and unreported in-kind contribution to John Kasich’s campaign committee;
(4) That the Commission erred in finding that a preponderance of the evidence established that the Ohio Republican Party’s payment of $300,000 on Terry Casey’s behalf satisfied the terms of O.A.C. 111-5-16; and
(5) That the Commission erred in construing and applying O.A.C. 111-5-16.
Brown and his co-counsel Mark G. Kafantaris, argue Charlie Earl, a resident of Bowling Green, Ohio, “has been adversely affected by the Commission’s final determination.” Attorney Brown wants the Court to declare OEC’s decision in this case “to be contrary to fact and law, overturn the final adjudicative decision of the Commission, and remand the case for additional proceedings.”
After OEC dismissed the case, I spoke to Mark Brown, who had this to say about the decision he was disappointed in:
“We brought it to OEC because we figured that’s something they would want to look into, and obviously OEC doesn’t,” he said outside the hearing room in downtown Columbus today. His hope, he said, was that the commission would have investigated the matter further, and as to whether they used a prosecutor or another counselor, “there should be more investigation.” Asked if he thinks there’s a conspiracy, he said, “Yes, I believe there is a conspiracy and I think … we don’t have all the evidence.”
Kasich Caper Shows Hard-Ball Politics At Work
The Court taking on this case, as Brown and Earl want it to do, could present Kasich’s critics, both Republicans and Democrats, with ammunition to show he’s ready to go to any extent, even spending what is now understood to be $600,000 or more in payments to a well connected, influential law firm, that tried to keep Terry Casey’s identify secret until a judge forced them to reveal it. Twenty years ago, Mr. Casey was found guilty of campaign finance laws pertaining to laundering money from donors to certain GOP candidates.
Terry Casey was a top official with the Franklin County Republican Party while Mr. Kasich served as a congressman from central Ohio. When John Kasich was elected governor in 2010, early on he appointed Mr. Casey to run a state personnel review board at a salary of more than $60,000 per year. Casey retains that post, even though he’s been the central figure in a shadowy plan to derail Mr. Earl from the ballot. A “guileless dupe,” as one judge called Gregory Felsoci, the know-nothing handyman-carpenter Casey engaged to challenge Earl’s candidacy last year, was found to move the plan forward.
Kasich has his hands full now, as he tries to not get embarrassed by not being able to quality as a top ten GOP candidate who will be chosen based on national polling numbers to be on stage in Cleveland on August 6th for the first of many Republican presidential primary debates. As bad as that would be for the home town governor, this case could prove equally or more troubling for Kasich and his team, who so far have been able to stonewall Brown and Earl on releasing communication between and among the key colluders in Kasich’s strategy to be more successful at running for the White House than he was in 2000, when he crashed and burned on take off.
Stakes High For Kasich
Gov. Kasich refused to debate his challenger last year and has kept public eyes out of his tax returns so far. But his days of evading and avoiding could be ending soon. If the twice-elected governor gets his wish, he’ll have to debate other Republicans on TV, and Fox News debate rules will force him to disclosure more information about his worth than he’s been willing to release before.
Brown and Early have another day in court to argue their case, but that could be as far as it goes, depending Judge Sheeran’s judgment. Political watchers say the Republican judge has been known to turn political corruption felonies into campaign finance misdemeanors. Gov. Kasich has a lot riding on whether the case gets traction or not before this judge. Brown and Earl shouldn’t get their hopes up, but maybe the judge will rise above the politics of putting the governor in a potentially embarrassing if not illegal position just as he’s ready to announce his bid for the presidency. Then again, the judge could surprise everyone and rule for the people, and let the chips fall where they will.