Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tort reformer Blackwell caught in his own frivolous complaint, then laughs off suit to force him to enforce Ohio's campaign finance laws

Ken Blackwell hypocracy knows no limits. He accuses his opponent of "political schizophernia," yet he's the one to abandoned his own platform from the primary, reverse his position on prevailing wage and "Right to Work" laws. Ken Blackwell's platform for economic development calls for tort reform to "reduce the amount of frivolous claims that are clogging our courts and hurting our economy." And, yet, what has Ken Blackwell done recently?

A week ago, Blackwell filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission alleging that Congressman Ted Strickland's ad criticizing Blackwell's mandatory health insurance proposal will be too costly to Ohio's families was false and misleading. The second Blackwell announced he was going to file this complaint, the Ohio conservative blogsphere jumped on the Blackwell bandwagon and opened their choiral hymnals to condemn Strickland's honesty and integrity in feined indigination.

Here are some of the posts regarding Blackwell's complaints in the past week:

And what did the Ohio Elections Commission rule on Blackwell's claims that Strickland's ad contained false and misleading information? In an unanimous, bipartisan vote, the Ohio Elections Commission ruled that there was not even probable cause for the Commission to investigate Blackwell's complaint, and so, they dismissed it. The short-hand word for that: Blackwell's claims were frivolous. Perhaps before enacting yet another round of tort reforms, Secretary Blackwell should institute reform to prevent candidates from filing frivolous complaints that their opponents are lying when, in reality, they're telling the truth.

But Blackwell's hypocracy goes even further. After pledging for years that "transparency" and "disclosures" are mandatory components of a healthy election, Blackwell now is utterly silent on the issue now that a group called "Common Sense Ohio" has used a campaign finance loophole to hide its contributors (and therefore, their compliance with Ohio's campaign contribution laws) from public scrutiny.

[If you're already familiar with the "Common Sense Ohio" fundraising scheme, skip to the next paragraph.] Here's how Common Sense Ohio's fundraising scheme (one could say it's the political equivalent of campaign finance money laundering) works. A group of Ken Blackwell supporters decides that they want to financially help elect Ken Blackwell as Governor, but they don't want to be limited to the $10,000-a-person contribution limit, or worse, control entities like corporations that they can't use to legally make a direct donation, or they just don't want people to publicly know that they are financially supporting an attack group's identity. So they create two organizations: one is a 501(c)(4) IRS non-profit entity designed to "promote social welfare" (think labor unions, Planned Parenthood, or Chamber of Commerce entities.) These groups don't have any donation limits, public reporting requirements, or prohibition from receiving corporate donors. Then they create a separate organization that will do all of the "electioneering" activities (they actually pay for the attack ads against Congressman Strickland while praising Ken Blackwell). The "electioneering" group is subject to campaign finance disclosures, but it can accept money from the first group and does. So, when the "electioneering" group reports it's donors, all it has to report is that it's received donations from the first group, and nobody has to report where the first group received its funds to donate to the electioneering group. The second group "discloses" the first group as it's sole donor while nobody really knows who is donating to the donor group and whether its all a scam to circumvent the contribution limits in Ohio's campaign finance system. Got that?

So, here's what Secretary of State Blackwell has said in the past about the need for full disclosure and transparency in campaign finance: "Without knowing who is behind these ads, voters are forced to make decisions without being fully informed,” Blackwell told lawmakers considering campaign reforms in November 2002. “The secrecy surrounding the funding of these advertisements contributes to the erosion of voter confidence in the political process."

Here's what Ken Blackwell has said now that he's the beneficiary of over $1.6 M in paid campaign advertisements in his favor by Common Sense Ohio: Nada.

As has been reported at Buckeye State Blog and now, finally, The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

"The legal architect behind Common Sense Ohio and Common Sense 2006 is Columbus attorney Bill Todd, the brilliant master of the campaign-finance loophole. Todd also did the legal work for Citizens for a Strong Ohio, the group that ran the brutal "Lady Justice" attack ads against Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, and Informed Citizens of Ohio, the secretive nonprofit that former House Speaker Larry Householder used to drive public policy."
The situation has gotten so bad that today the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court asking the court to issue a writ of mandamus to compel Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to take action in order to get actual disclosure of who is funding Common Sense Ohio. And what has Ken Blackwell's response been to this obvious fraudulent scheme to circumvent Ohio's campaign finance disclosure laws after spending years championing that every dime used in a political campaign be disclosed? He laughed it off.

In one day, Blackwell is revealed to have filed one false claim against his opponent and shrugged off a genuine complaint about an intentional circumventing of Ohio's campaign finance laws because it politically benefits his desire for higher office. This is a testament of Ken Blackwell's true character, and it's not one fit to be our Governor for the next four years. We don't need a politican with no true values other than a self-absorbed sense of political self-perservation and ambition. We deserve better than that from our next Governor.

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