The ultimate insult
Political class wealth redistribution (Part 3)
We’ve all heard the phrase “An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.” Two Republican political operatives recently revealed their shameless disrespect for the notion that public servants are paid to serve the public, not their own interests or the interests of the political class. Senate Chief of Staff Jason Mauk and Senate Communications Director John McClelland are both under fire for their private company moonlighting for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. Mauk and McClelland earn a combined $231,773 in their Ohio Senate jobs and about $80,000 a year from political consulting for the Ohio GOP. Common Cause Ohio, a government watchdog group and Progress Ohio, a liberal think tank have asked Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and others to investigate the findings of a Dayton Daily News investigation. (Source: Laura Bishoff, Probe urged in paper’s findings, Dayton Daily News, September 10, 2014, pages B1, B2) Although Ms. Bischoff’s article brings the issue into the light of day, taxpayer financed political campaigns and ballot initiative support have been around forever. For sure there are laws that prohibit this activity, but except on rare occasions such as the Dayton Daily News and OCGJ’s investigations, the only things discouraging the practice are mandatory disclosures and self-regulation. You may agree that the political class is not very good at either. Take for example Steve Austria’s inaugural campaign for U.S. Congress in 2008.
On Sunday, October 14, 2007, Dave Hobson announced he would not run for reelection in November, 2008. Hours later, Steve Austria announced he would run for the open seat (Source: Jacob Dirr, “Hobson to retire; Austria to run for his seat”, Dayton Business Journal, October 15, 2007). Federal election law allows staff members to campaign for candidates as long as it’s not on government time or with government resources. The problem here is there is no one to enforce the law if a staff member disregards it. Mandatory disclosures (or failure to make mandatory disclosures) at least give the citizens a fighting chance to expose violations of campaign finance law.
Mrs. Steve Austria acted as Dave Hobson’s District Director for the 18 years he was in Congress, and a sweet gig it was; a six-figure income as well as all the fringe benefits of her boss, Congressman Dave Hobson. But it would only get better as a congressman’s wife, so you can rest assured Mrs. Austria did all she could, legal and otherwise, to make that happen. Mrs. Austria stayed on as District Director until January 2008 when the law no longer allowed her to stay in that job, but from the end of October through December the Austria campaign raised over $200,000 largely from Dave Hobson’s hard core contributors. If even one phone call to solicit those contributions was made from Hobson’s office or while Mrs. Austria was on the clock for her District Director job, she broke the law. If we believe she did not make that one call and many others, at best we are over-trusting; at worst we have taken naivety to a new level. But there’s more.
First-time congressional candidates like Steve Austria are required by law to report campaign contributions within 30 days after exceeding $5,000. As OCGJ noted earlier, Austria raised over $200,000 by the end of December, 2007 (Source: www.fec.gov). His campaign passed the $5,000 threshold by the end of October, 2007, but Austria didn’t report any contributions until May, 2008, about six months late. The report was also missing two other mandatory disclosures; his membership on the Dayton Development Coalition’s Wright Patt 2010 Committee for one and Mrs. Austria’s employment with Nextedge Development Corporation, a private non-profit corporation that received earmarks from Dave Hobson and grants from the State of Ohio sponsored by State Senator Steve Austria. More than likely Mrs. Austria spent time at Nextedge dialing for dollars for her husband’s campaign for Congress. This is not the first time these allegations were brought out to see the light of day. As early as 2009 we reported them to the Federal Election Commission, the FBI, the Dayton U.S. Attorney, the U.S. House Ethics Committee as well as Congressmen Mike Turner and Jim Jordan, who both sit on the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform. For years those government agencies and officials sat on the evidence and continue to do so. What is more insulting to our sensibilities, total disrespect for campaign finance statutes or the fact that law enforcement and our courts have ignored the irrefutable evidence? In either case, it punctuates the contempt the political class has for due process and the rule of law.