Ohio tea baggers figuring out that state GOP takes their votes for granted

The honeymoon might be over between Tea Party followers and Ohio Republicans. Although the Cincinnati Tea Party has long said it's a nonpartisan group, its largest rallies and protests have featured a predominantly GOP slant. Speakers and attendees at the events have included former Congressman Steve Chabot — who's seeking a return to Ohio's 1st district seat — along with U.S. Senate candidate Rob Portman, U.S. Rep. John Boehner, U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt and gubernatorial contender John Kasich. But for all of the Tea Party's openness to Republican officials, the effort hasn't been reciprocated.

Mike Wilson, founder of the Cincinnati Tea Party, harshly criticized state GOP leaders recently for behind-the-scenes jockeying that led to changes in the races for Ohio auditor and Ohio attorney general. In a January e-mail to followers, Wilson urged them to tell state party chairman Kevin DeWine to stop wooing Dave Yost to enter the auditor's race. Yost, who is Delaware County prosecutor, was seeking the GOP's nomination for attorney general, competing in the primary with former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine.

Wilson said both Yost and the only declared GOP candidate for auditor at the time, Seth Morgan, are true conservatives that the Tea Party supports; he considers Sen. DeWine a "RINO" — "Republican in Name Only." Wilson alleged that Kevin DeWine was participating in a political dirty trick in order to clear the path for his cousin to win the party's nomination in the attorney general's race.

Two days after Wilson's e-mails, Yost switched races and announced he would in fact seek the auditor's job.

"I think both Morgan and Yost are good candidates and I think it is terrible that the [party] is attempting to manipulate the outcome in these races to pit good conservatives against each other to allow a RINO like Mike DeWine to run uncontested," wrote Wilson. "Ohio Republican Chairman Kevin DeWine does not understand things and needs to get the message. He even lied in a [political website] Politico article [in January] where he claimed that he had reached out to Tea Party leaders."

Kevin DeWine didn't return an e-mail seeking a comment on Wilson's allegations.

Morgan, a state representative from Huber Heights (north of Dayton), decided to run for Ohio auditor when incumbent Auditor Mary Taylor accepted the invitation to be John Kasich's running mate in the gubernatorial race. The Democratic nominee is Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper, a Cincinnati native.

Despite Wilson's allegations, Kevin DeWine's motivation appears to be more politically pragmatic than personally motivated. Morgan isn't well known outside of the Dayton area, and party leaders are worried about his ability to raise money and campaign statewide.

Before Kevin DeWine approached Yost, Republican leaders also asked ex-attorney general and ex-auditor Betty Montgomery and ex-attorney general Jim Petro to run in the auditor's race, as well as Mike DeWine himself, sources said. All declined the offer.

Pepper, son of retired Procter & Gamble CEO John Pepper, had handily outraised Taylor in the auditor's race by nearly three-to-one. As of last summer, Pepper had raised almost $320,000 to Taylor's $108,000, according to campaign finance reports.

Yost said the switch is in the GOP's best interests.

"Business, political and grassroots leaders across this great state have called on me during the last several days to put aside my personal plans and fill a gap in our party's ticket — to step up and bring my skills and passion for public integrity to this most important work," said Yost in a prepared statement. "After much prayer, reflection and taking of counsel, I have decided to run for auditor of state."

Although the Ohio Auditor's Office doesn't capture many headlines, it's important in at least one crucial aspect: The office gets a seat on the Ohio Apportionment Board, which will reconfigure the state's legislative districts in 2011. Any changes could benefit one party over the other, depending on who controls the process.

For his part, Wilson is challenging State Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) for the Ohio 28th District seat.

This article originally appeared in Cincinnati CityBeat.

TOO ANGRY TO MAKE SENSEIt's time for "Angry White Conservative Pop Quiz," the game show where most contestants would rather demagogue than participate.

Fact: Most economists say large-scale government investment was needed to prevent the downturn from spiraling into a full-blown depression. As The New York Times wrote about a January 2009 meeting of the American Economic Association, "Nearly every economist who spoke here agreed that a dollar invested in, say, a new transit system or in bridge repair is spent and re-spent more efficiently than a dollar that comes to a household in a tax cut."

Question: President Bush's economic policies relied on tax cuts as their centerpiece, and yet the economic collapse occurred anyhow. How would more tax cuts reverse the situation?

Fact: Obama's plan imposes a 39.6 percent tax rate on the wealthy, up slightly from Bush's 35 percent rate. Still, the rate is far lower than many past GOP presidents; President Reagan imposed a 50 percent tax rate during his first term, President Nixon had a 70 percent rate and President Eisenhower had a 91 percent rate.

Question: Obama's been called a "socialist" for his plan, so does that make Reagan, Nixon and Eisenhower socialists too? Why or why not?

Fact: During his first term, Reagan was shocked by how much the deficit grew due to an earlier tax cut. As a result, he agreed to a tax hike that restored one-third of the previous reduction. In fact, he raised various types of taxes four times during his presidency.

Question: Are tax increases ever appropriate or justified?

Fact: Bush inherited a budget surplus but ended his presidency with large deficits. By late 2008, the national debt had increased to $11.3 trillion, an increase of more than 100 percent from the beginning of 2000, when the debt was $5.6 trillion.

Question: Why were no Tea Party protests held during Bush's presidency?

Fact: Bush allowed a federal budget policy known as "pay as you go" to expire in 2002. This policy required all new spending be offset by cuts elsewhere, paid for by tax increases or some combination of both. When Bush allowed the policy to lapse, the U.S. began borrowing huge amounts of money from China and other foreign nations.

Question: Was this a prudent fiscal action? Why did the GOP-controlled Congress allow it to happen?

Hopefully, some Tea Party-going, tax cut-loving conservatives will stop frothing at the mouth long enough to answer those questions for the rest of us. Meanwhile, the FBI first warned of an "epidemic" of mortgage fraud in 2004, as noted frequently by William K. Black, a University of Missouri economics professor who was a regulator during the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s. Tea Party-goers like to blame homeowners, but private lenders initiated 80 percent of these bogus loans, which they called "ninja loans" for "no income, no job, no assets." Lenders made the deals anyhow because they profited handsomely.

Make no mistake, Obama and the Democrats aren't blameless. But let's at least blame them for the right things.

The mortgage meltdown can be traced to the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which allowed banks to offer investment services with little regulation. Larry Summers, who's now an Obama economic advisor, was Treasury Secretary then and pushed for the change. His boss, President Clinton, signed it into law. Both should be ashamed, and Summers should never work in government again.

Tim Geithner, Obama's Treasury Secretary, was remiss in his previous job as Federal Reserve Bank president to see the crisis brewing. And he's too beholden to his old financial-sector pals to effectively oversee the bailout. If autoworkers can break their contracts to give up benefits, so can banking executives.

But it's clear the lion's share of the blame for the mess we're in lies with the Bush Administration, and the culture of greed and recklessness it fostered by refusing to enforce even the most basic regulations on the business community. That "anything goes" atmosphere is responsible, more than anything else, for wrecking the economy. — Osborne


More by Kevin Osborne

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