With two years left in his final term as Ohio governor, will John Kasich be more dangerous now than before? He’s been brazen in many ways since he came to power in 2011, yet he’s suffered few if any repercussions or scars from sleepy state watchdogs or myopic media.
“You don’t think I’m going to go to sleep here in the last two years. I’m just ramping up,” Kasich said, according to the Dayton Daily News.
Despite plundering cities and schools, deceitfully using federal Medicaid funds or enacting self-serving, dark-side budget gymnastics that show his true colors as a political Music Man promising one thing but delivering something else, his campaign tagline—Kasich Works—takes on more clarity as he works the shadows, choosing the dark over the light.
Ohio’s Fourth Estate has largely snoozed through or outright ignored Gov. Kasich’s fiscal management tactics that shine a light on his real God-given purpose in life: milking taxpayers.
The former congressman turned Fox News TV talk show host isn’t a dairy farmer, far from it in fact. He showed how averse he is to life on the farm when he broke decades of tradition of governors spending a night at the state fair in the animal barn.
He does know, though, how to milk a public cow when he can. Over his nearly 40 years in politics, Mr. Kasich has honed his skills as a performance politician who knows an ounce of perception is worth a pound of production. He bets media can’t or won’t tell the difference. So far, he’s been right more than wrong.
Gov. Kasich has recent examples of doing what’s good for him and his insiders in isolated, one-off reports on his administration giving unbid contracts to one of his close super-rich friends, proposing Medicaid recipients pay a fee to receive otherwise cost-free healthcare, larding his management class hires with big pay bonuses, and maybe pushing a scheme to further bilk Washington out of dollars intended for Ohio’s most needy.
The almost always Kasich-friendly Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday on another sweetheart deal doled out to the governor’s Silicon Valley friend, political ally and campaign contributor, Mark Kvamme. The paper reported that “State officials are forfeiting hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by allowing a contractor to lease state property to another company and keep the money.”
What should have been at the top of the article, but ended up at the bottom, was the direct connection between the company—Agile Networks, a startup company in Coshocton County—and Mr. Kvamme, a Californian who Gov. Kasich picked to be in his cabinet until that plan was scuttled by the Ohio Constitution. Mr. Kvamme worked out of Kasich’s office until he moved to be chairman of JobsOhio, Kasich’s pet privatized job group. Agile was touted in a June 2012 article in Fortune magazine profiling venture capitalist Kvamme, the report said.
The dots are there to connect, according to the Fortune article that noted Mr. Kvamme was “huddling with three unnamed Kasich aides to discuss expanding broadband access, with the JobsOhio boss favoring ‘getting behind a fledgling Ohio firm called Agile Network Builders.’” Kasich met his stealth buddy as a congressman and has kept close to him ever since. Kvamme wanted to leverage $12 million in government loans for Agile based on kicking in just $3 million from his capital network, the report said.
Kurt Kauffman, capital finance director in the Office of Budget Management, confessed to the Dispatch that “he knows of no other agreement like Agile’s in which a contractor was allowed to sublease state property and keep the money in order to comply with the federal tax regulation.” That’s interesting as is the unbid contract Agile Networks received by the Controlling Board, an oversight administrative tool on federal funds and state contracts, for telecommunications services in 2012.
Mark Kvamme was on the state stage for a while at the start of Kasich’s first-term. He left Kasich’s office, moving to JobsOhio then left it to form a venture capital firm that, curiously, landed a $50 million dollar venture capital investment from The Ohio State University and its president at the time, Gordon Gee, an original member of Kasich’s hand-picked JobsOhio board, who had the authority to make the deal alone. The Dispatch noted that Kvamme declined comment on the story.
Other reporting that produced no follow up stories include budget language buried deep that doled out a measly 2.5 percent pay increase for public union workers while the governor’s manager class hires were larded up with bonuses that for some topped 11 percent.
A long-time advocate of personal responsibility for everyone but himself and his loyalists, a standard in GOP ideological mindsets, Gov. Kasich wants people poor enough to qualify for Medicaid to pay a fee for healthcare that is otherwise cost free. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has panned it, going so far as to advocate to federal regulators to just say no to the Kasich administration’s request for a waiver of rules.
The Dayton Daily News reported the announcement of about a $1.1 billion dollar budget hole resulting from “losing Medicaid tax revenue.” The story quoted Joe Nichols of the Buckeye Institute saying Ohio was charging sales tax on Medicaid and Medicare transactions paid with Federal funds. Federal officials told Ohio that only true medical costs would be reimbursed.
John Kasich made a big fuss on the campaign trail about choosing between two paths, the light and dark. His nearly six years in office offers ample examples of him working the shadows to benefit friends and special interests if there’s a public cow to milk.
It’s past time that John Kasich start walking on the sunny side of the street for a change.