Monday, August 22, 2005

Rep. Redfern: Let the Sunshine in & Impeach Taft

The governor, judges, and all state officers, may be impeached for any misdemeanor in office; but judgment shall not extend further than removal from office, and disqualification to hold any office under the authority of this state. The party impeached, whether convicted or not, shall be liable to indictment, trial, and judgment, according to law.

--Art. II, Sec. 24 of the Ohio Constitution
Dear Ohio House Minority Leader Redfern:

Contextually, there is no question that impeachment is a discretionary power of the legislative branch, as no situation requires the legislature to impeach a public official. Furthermore, there is no question that Gov. Taft's recent criminal conviction is sufficient grounds for impeachment. The constitution says that the Legislative may impeach members of the Judiciary or Executive branches whenever such a member commits a misdeed in office. The framers use of the term "misdemeanor" was likely meant to mean "misdeed" as opposed to the more modern legal definition that means all categories of crimes not constituting a felony. It would be axiomatic to say the Constitution permits impeachment when the Governor commits a misdemeanor, but not a felony. Regardless there is no question as to whether the Governor's criminal acts constitute a misdeed committed "in office" as the offense could not be committed outside the scope of his official capacity.

For the following reasons, the Ohio House of Representatives should publicly debate articles of impeachment against Governor Bob Taft:

What does the Democratic Party stand for?
If the Democratic Party has any interest in being a governing party again, it must show Ohioans a vision for governing, especially for the legislature. My biggest complaint about this early process is that it is being done in closed doors with a small segment of the legislature attending (a closed-door caucus meeting I believe). I have no qualms or am naive to believe that caucus meetings should not be conducted by closed-door, but on this issue, I think it's misguided.

Let the Sunlight in
What issue is more important to the State than the seemingly endless ethics problems of the State leadership? As part of the opposition, we have seen press quote after quote about how the GOP's practice of closed door dealing has hurt Ohio. Let this be an opportunity to show how differently Democrats would govern by being public and deliberative. Let's show that the House of Representatives is not just a voting body, but the deliberative body it was intended to be before the first stone was laid on Capitol Square. Of course, the issue as to whether the Governor's actions should constitute an impeachable offense is a debatable issue. But good governing requires that debate to be had on the record and in the open public. I believe that's why we built y'all a House chamber and gave you those microphones, t.v. cameras, and nifty electronic voting machines with the cool screens showing the roll call on each side. I'm still trying to figure out the laptops, though....

Failure is not introducing an article of impeachment and having it fail. Failure is the status quo. Let the issues regarding impeachment be discussed on the floor of the House, with members of both parties discussing it, and let the decision be rendered by a roll call vote for all of Ohio to see. That is democracy, and that is where our party name derives.

Impeachment v. Resignation
Several members of the other party have suggested that Taft should step down. The Governor has indicated an unwillingness to do so. One cannot make the case that a public official should resign for misconduct, but if that official refuses, then nothing further should be done. One cannot argue on one hand for resignation but then vote against impeachment. Like resignation, impeachment is a declaration that a public official's misconduct has caused that official to lose their moral authority to act on behalf of the State. That should be the standard in which the Governor should be judged.

Are the gifts Gov. Taft failed to disclose any less than what former Connecticut Governor John Rowland received? At least most of Gov. Rowland's gifts came from state employees, not campaign contributors who were government contractors (although some of them did.)

Distinguish yourself from the opposition
The Speaker's comments regarding your request to the LSC to present information regarding impeachment was telling. It shows that the majority leadership of the House has completely abdicated its responsible as officers of the House to enforce the Ohio Constitution or display any leadership for Ohio whatsoever. His "wait-and-see" attitude gives the House Democratic caucus a prime opportunity to show that while Republicans issue lofty press releases deploring the Governor's actions, the House Democrats are ready with a serious mind to discuss forcing the House to live up to its constitutional obligation to take action.

If the Republicans refuse to show any real leadership, why shouldn't the Democrats? What better opportunity to show Ohioans the contrasting leadership ability of the two caucuses?

Gov. Taft has genuinely done much to try and set a moral and ethical tone for his administration. But it is obvious that his ethical leadership has been woefully (or should I say, Noefully) inadequate. By forcing a debate on impeachment, the Democrats have an opportunity to set the ethical bar higher than it's been for over a decade, indeed higher than it has ever been. That can never be a bad thing.

Think history, not the future
This is a historic moment, but only if action is taken. The issue should not be whether the Governor is more of a political asset for the Democrats in office until 2006 or not. The issue is about setting the record straight for history. It's about setting a precedent, even if that precedent is to decide against impeachment.

Let's force the Republicans, and ourselves, to go on the record on this issue. Let's debate it thoroughly. And then let's take that debate to the people of Ohio. Our state is strong enough to handle a little democracy now and then.

The Modern Esq.

P.S.- I commend you for making the House Democratic Caucus more available and open for outside input through your website. I hope you can reveal details about the meeting publicly tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Politically speaking, I disagree with your conclusion that the Ohio House Democrats should start impeachment proceedings and I believe they're takinge exactly the right course of action. The minute we start proposing impeachment, the Ohio GOP will start accusing us of overreacting for the sake of playing politics with the scandal and people will start to believe it. No one is going to see a proposal for impeachment as a vision for leadership. Joe Blow will see it as our party trying to kick someone when they're down.

I don't think the House Democrats have any intention of proceeding on impeachment charges. The press releases are designed to keep the story going and to make the House Democrats look as if they're being dilligent and thorough. They will "decide" soon enough that they won't proceed with impeachment, which gets another round of stories going about how Taft dodged a bullet, which he really didn't, and it will likely spawn a round of stories of Taft's truly lame-duck status and people will be reminded several times about the ineptitude of their Republican governor.

Congressman Strickland is definitely taking the right course of action here. Keep talking about how the entire situation is a tragedy and talk about how much of a shame it is that our governor did something like this, but stop short of calling for him to resign. When he does that, he keeps the newspaper stories going but doesn't look like a partisan hack. He also gives the appearance of being compassionate towards people he disagrees with, which he really is.

Coleman's campaign, of course, once again showed it's lack of political instinct by calling for a resignation. The GOP will soon start labeling him as an opportunist who is trying to pile on to score political points, which is exactly what he's trying to do. His calls for a resignation went over like a lead balloon at the Pickaway County event and they will continue to every time he calls for a resignation.

As a fellow UC Law grad, I wish you nothing but good luck on your Bar Exam results. Keep up the good work on the blog!

Modern Esquire said...

Well, by contacting the LSC and having the caucus meeting, the Democratic caucus has started impeachment proceedings. The issue now is how far do they push it.

With the GOP AWOL, the fact is that Democrats look to be the only party offering any leadership on Taft. By pushing for a bipartisan, public, and open process, the Democrats can show a contrasting governing style than has been seen in this state for quite some time. That was the first point of my post.

I don't really disagree with anything else you say, and it's very much what I expected. But the purpose of my post was to bring the issue to a full debate as it seems to be one that nobody wanted to directly address: what do you do when a Governor you think should step down refuses to resign?

The second point of my post was to point out that there are two separate issues for the legislators to consider:
1) Under the Ohio Constitution, does Taft's criminal misconduct constitute an impeachable offense. My thesis: It unquestionably does; and

2) Should the legislative exercise its impeachment power in response to Taft's criminal misconduct? Just because there is a valid argument in the negative does not mean that you don't have the House consider impeachment. If an issue of such public importance is debatable, then let's have the debate. But let's not decide to decide this in a private meeting under the very same cloak of secrecy that allowed this misconduct to fester and grow.

As I said in response to comment in a prior post, I don't disagree with Strickland's response at all. And Coleman can't really do anything without it seeming to be an attempt to pump some much-needed oxygen into his campaign that has never gotten a firm political footing on the landscape since the Beck interview and Strickland's entrance.

But what is the wise course for Strickland is not necessary the best course of the Democratic caucus. You already have several GOP legislators calling for his resignation, it's hard to make the case, and then say that the Democrats are acting partisan in forcing Taft's hand.

Furthermore, there is nobody really out there defending Taft vocifariously. As Cincinnati Enquirer noted, GOP Bob Bennett is already putting his finger in the wind to see how much support Taft still has in the county parties.

Personally, I just prefer transparent processes and am simply advocating a public, transparent process even if the decision is ultimately one against impeachment. Either way, such a weighty decision should be made in a manner that show it is truly the consensus decision.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone,
These comments may be the most unorthodox you've encountered.
It seems to me that democracy and the parties have been co-opted by the well heeled for the advantage of the well heeled. How many people who make thirtythousand or less each year get elected to positions of authority?
I propose an idea I found in an obscure text a few years back as an alternative to casting our votes among professional liars.
Chaocracy: or selecting a governing body by purely random means. This should solve problems such as...
Anyone who wants power should'nt have it. Authorities who can be voted out of power spend way too much time maintaining the status quo so as to be re-elected. This, obviously has done the people little good.
Elected bodies abrogate much of their power to people who act as monarchs and then waste much of their time on factional in fighting.
So, let's select our government by random means, the minimum requirements being that one must read at a sixth grade level and at least be of puberty age. Let's reward them with salaries that place them beyond corruption and replace half of them every few years by random selection; the half being replaced will also be selected at random.
The Chaocracy will have a civil service, like our Supreme Court to advise it. They'll debate openly but vote by secrect ballot.
We trust people's lives to randomly selected juries, so why not do away with rich, professional poititians who care more about their own careers than the people they're supposed to represent?
The present system obviosly entails too much corruption and not enough benefit for we, the people!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the process is for introducing articles of impeachment? Do they have to go through a committee where they can be bottled up? Is it at the discretion of the Speaker as to whether or not they're discussed on the House floor?

Modern Esquire said...

While I cannot say what the trial process would be in Senate if an article of impeachment was passed by the House, I can tell you that that process in the House would not be unlike any other consideration of legislation.

The articles would be introduced and referred by the Speaker to a committee led by a Republican chairman. The committee could be one specially created, the House Judiciary Committee or the House Elections and Ethics Committee would be my guess.

That decision is largely made by the Speaker of the House and done through the House Rules and Reference Committee which assigns each piece of legislation to one or more committees.

The committee would likely conduct an investigatory hearing before deciding whether to recommend the adoption of articles of impeachment. The committee would likely draft an amended resolution spelling out the different reasons for impeachment.

Just as they did in Congress with Clinton, the whole House would vote as to whether adopt, amend, or reject the resolution. Any floor vote on the resolution would only be scheduled if the Speaker decides to schedule a vote.

Most bills die either in committee or because the Speaker never schedules a floor vote on it. Also, just because a bill is referred to committee does not mean the committee will take action on it.

If a House Committee actually recommended for approval articles of impeachment, I doubt the Speaker could politically at that point not allow for a floor vote. But there are many steps eariler than that point where the Speaker and committee leadership could kill a resolution of impeachment.

However, this is all academic since no resolution of impeachment has been introduced. And there is no evidence that there is any likely chance one will ever be introduced.

Anonymous said...

It's plain to see (by looking at Taft’s "un-popularity" in the polls): IMPEACH TAFT! It is time for the people of Ohio to wake up.

Jerry Ellis Sr. said...

I Jerry Ellis Sr. ! In my opion Gov. Taft is taking care of Honda, for there campain e money givin to Tafts campaine.In return Gov.Taft through BWC,OCRC,OSMB,gets Hondas injured workers claims dismissed,or draged out for 10 years like ours.Can you check out the number of Honda injured worker claims that make it out of BWC.My wifes civil rights throught OCRC was not addressed ,was this a faver for Honda from Taft!!! We had the two Honda Dr,s checked out by OSMB,but once again Tafts ran OSMB was no help to the Ohio injured worker!!!Please can you help our Family!!!You need to check out all you can about Gov.Taft! Didnt Taft leave the country right after the coin deal could this be where he put his money from this share of the coin deal.Maybe this is why the ohio injured worker gets no help!!Taft needed more money from BWC for his coin deals!!Thanks Jerry Ellis Sr. are doing a great job please help use because we are getting no help from any Gov. Tafts Ohio ran offices which are there to help the Ohio injured worker!! Thanks ! for your time and I hope your family is doing well!!