If Ohio media had been investigating Gov. John Kasich and his administration with the same energy and vigor they’ve used to pursue far less important people who engaged in far less unlawful activity, Kasich’s plunderbund while in office would constitute a rap sheet of scandals that would paint a different, darker picture than the one reporters and editorial boards have delivered so far despite knowing better.
Since he won his skinny two-percent victory back in 2010, reporting on his serious screw ups has drifted toward fluff coverage that includes editorials written to defend his wrong-headed policies and mediocre performance. This especially applies to his performance on jobs, which puts Ohio after seven years of Kasich control in the bottom half of states on issues too important and too many to list now.
Front pages should be replete with stories on his scandals but instead are hardly ever mentioned. That might change a bit as media informs readers about a surfacing plunderbund that surrounds the awarding of millions of dollars in unbid technology-consulting contracts by some of Kasich’s top officials at the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). It’s curious but not surprising these contracts lacked controls guaranteeing vendors were selected fairly, so says a report by Kasich-appointed Inspector General Randall Meyer.
Kasich’s screw ups date back to his early months in office in 2011 when he tried to nominate his rich, Silicon Valley friend and campaign contributor Mark Kvamme to a cabinet seat the Ohio Constitution expressly disqualified the west coast investor him from holding. Allowing billions in boondoggle spending on for-profit charter schools that perform so poorly should be scandalous. So should the hedge-fund managers who invaded Ohio post Kasich’s election to rake in billions while the pension funds they were charging sky high fees to were realizing little in return. State media treats the petulant, easily angered Kasich with kid gloves, so much so that genuine scandals that in any other administration would demand coverage go largely unnoticed by Ohio’s national chaplain.
Whether Kasich and company derailed a competitive candidate for governor in 2014 through shady means, or whether spending millions on private security for his private house because he refused to live in public housing called the Governor’s Mansion, or whether taxpayers spent millions guarding him while he was out-of-state running for president when Ohioans did reelect him in 2014 to do that, the 65-year old term-limited, lame-duck chief executive doesn’t have to wonder where the next blow will come from.
Kasich understands he is comforted by a lazy media too afraid to dig in or down on him. He’s also comforted because he’s been protected by Republican judges who prevent any challenge to his favorite creation, JobsOhio, from having its day in court, where very smart legal minds would argue convincingly, many say, that Kasich’s private and secret job group, immune by state law from pubic scrutiny, would be declared unconstitutional. But it lives and breathes, with billions in bonds to give away. The Republican legislature doesn’t care, given its complicity in creating it. Other key judges were smart enough to use lack of standing to keep the case out of court and out of the public eye.
No surprise here, but Kasich’s income tax giveaways, the ones he boasted about when running his second losing bid for president in 2016, are just state-sized versions of President Trump’s monumental national monstrosity tax cut bill. Kasich-Trump tax plans are built for already wealthy feathered-nesters like Kasich and Trump themselves. Bob and Betty Buckeye will fare far worse over time as they pay for cash-back to one percenters. When few were looking, Kasich parlayed his congressman’s salary and time in Washington over nearly two decades into a personal portfolio valued between $9 million and $22 million.
Corruption or scandal are words seldom mention by media when it speaks about Gov. Kasich or his administration. But corruption is the word State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) used Monday when he responded to a report by the state inspector general that focused on an ongoing investigation into corrupt activity at the Department of Administrative Services.
Meyer’s report said DAS’s no-bid practices were fertile ground that created opportunities for “abusive and potential fraudulent activity.”
Cera is a member of the Ohio Controlling Board that provides oversight of state spending. Additional information from Inspector General Meyer came in June, after news reports showed DAS was steering hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid, taxpayer-funded state contracts to a few select IT firms for consulting services.
Also the lead Democrat on the House’s state budget committee, Cera supported an amendment to the state budget to force additional oversight on hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid handouts at DAS. The amendment passed through the General Assembly. Kasich vetoed the extra layer of protection in the last version of his last two-year budget.
“Today’s report confirms what many have known for quite some time,” Cera said in prepared remarks. “Powerful public officials at the highest levels of state government have misused the system and taxpayer dollars to benefit political insiders and friends.
As for this latest report of wrongdoing in the Kasich Administration, Cera said, it’s “quickly becoming a pattern of corrupt activity. Ultimately, reviewing this activity and making recommendations on changing the process is not enough. Nobody is above the law. The scope of the investigation should reflect this and hold public officials accountable.”
Holding public officials accountable should start at the top, with Kasich, whose ambition is to come off as a spot-free governor who bucks his party and politics enough to be viewed as a viable Republican candidate for president in 2020.
Evidence of genuine scandals is thick, yet media hasn’t pursued them with any vigor at all, compared to the kind of in-depth investigative reporting newspapers like to do to win journalism awards and then claim credit for changing state law.
Now that Kasich has picked his home area of Westerville near Columbus as the site of his last on-the-road State of the State address next year, it’s a safe bet none of his scandals will tarnish what will be the last in his series of self-basting monologues because state Ohio will not have given the due diligence these corrupt practices call for.