Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine

Typically, for a young attorney with a mountain of law school debt, the prospect of working in the state attorney general’s office might seem like a wonderful opportunity for advancement and a life of bourgeois ease and Rotary contribution to the community.

But I imagine life in Mike DeWine’s Ohio Attorney General’s office might more resemble an ever-exhausting series of menial political score-settling tasks, with DeWine as some sort of deranged Michael Scott holding “team building exercises” about how best to pursue his personal ideological agenda.

Yes, the state’s top cop is at it again, and losing again, as is his usual, with a federal judge smacking him down by ruling that an Obamacare-related fee charged to most employers, including the state, is not an unconstitutional tax.


The fee is paid by all employers who provide group health insurance in the workplace. It came to $63 per covered person in 2014 and $44 for each person in 2015. The money is used primarily to fund a temporary financial pool that protects insurance companies issuing individual policies in the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, marketplace. Insurers can tap into the reinsurance fund when they have to pay out particularly high medical claims.

This is one of several fees or taxes that Democrats in Congress built into the new health insurance system in an effort to start the new market — targeted to individuals and families that lacked workplace coverage — on sound financial footing. The reinsurance fee was designed to get the system started and to phase out after 2016.

But state employers, cities and public universities had to pay the fee too if they insured their employees under group plans. DeWine, filing the lawsuit last January in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, called it “an unprecedented attempt to destroy the balance of authority between the federal government and the states.”

Good God, Mike, take some beta blockers and calm the fk down. Now we know how abominable the idea of helping your fellow citizens may be to you, how horrifying it must be to contemplate that millions of Americans may be assured of medical access that doesn’t crush their bank accounts. But in the big scheme of things, is this really something to launch your soup bowl across the room over?

The fee amounted to $5.389 million for state in 2014. State universities paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

Holy Moly, Mike, $5.4 million? To the fainting couch, post haste!

But it appears that the judge in this matter has DeWine’s number, and it’s not 867-Jenny.

In issuing the opinion, released Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley suggested that DeWine’s intent was more than protecting Ohio fiscally. Marbley was appointed to the bench in 1997 by President Bill Clinton.

The state of Ohio “is no stranger to Affordable Care Act challenges,” the opinion said. “To the contrary, the State’s Attorney General proudly trumpets that his first act in office was joining a twenty-five state lawsuit challenging the Act in its entirety.” That effort, challenging the federal government’s right to charge a penalty for people who refuse to get insurance, largely failed when it reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

But DeWine wasn’t done. “In 2014, Ohio redoubled its efforts against the Affordable Care Act by leading nineteen states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a challenge to the contraception-coverage mandate,” Marbley noted in this week’s opinion. In that challenge, known as the Hobby Lobby case because of the name of the chain of stores that did not wish to provide contraception coverage to workers, DeWine and the other litigants “notched a partial victory.”

There was still another multi-state case with DeWine’s involvement, this one concerning faith-based objections to birth control from nonprofit religious colleges and hospitals. The Supreme Court could resolve the case this year.

Y’know, Mike, I might not have your decades of experience in lawyerin’, but when the judge is writing opinions basically stating that it’s crushingly obvious you’re playing out a personal political vendetta, maybe it’s time to hang it up, brother. Put the lance down. Leave that poor windmill alone, Don Quixote.

D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.