Skip to comments.Dump Householder, Blackwell says (Ohio GOP infighting)
Posted on 05/25/2004 7:48:07 AM PDT by Deadeye Division
Dump Householder, Blackwell says
Demand is latest round in GOP infighting
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Sandy Theis and Ted Wendling
Plain Dealer Bureau
Columbus - Ohio's Republican Party chairman should demand that Larry Householder resign as speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and show contrition for the "political racketeering done on his watch," Secretary of State Ken Blackwell said Monday.
Blackwell made his comments in a letter to GOP Chairman Bob Bennett - a letter that inflamed the growing scandal engulfing House Republicans and the infighting afflicting the GOP.
The letter followed Plain Dealer reports that federal officials have launched a grand jury investigation into Householder's campaign practices.
Bennett responded by taking a swipe at Blackwell.
"No one has been found guilty of anything," Bennett said in a written statement, "and at this point, I would no sooner call on Larry Householder to resign than I would Ken Blackwell."
Bennett has avoided criticizing Householder, instead focusing on the conduct of Householder's chief political consultant, Brett Buerck, and fund-raiser Kyle Sisk. Bennett has accused the two of being overzealous - even though both are on the state party's payroll.
Householder showed no sign of resigning his post.
Through a spokesman, he said he plans to focus on "the challenges that the state's facing," and added, "It's unfortunate that some people are more interested in playing politics."
The FBI and IRS began the probe after receiving an anonymous memo in March. It accused the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee, which Householder oversees, of overpaying some vendors, then having those vendors make secret payments to Householder and his top advisers.
Householder has said the memo is filled with "half-truths and outright lies."
Householder's problems worsened amid reports that Buerck and Sisk helped write memos that disparage fellow Republicans. One 109-page memo detailed a plan to "destroy" Blackwell while promoting Householder. The plan was not implemented.
While no House Republicans are advocating Householder's removal, a growing cadre is questioning whether Buerck's $10,000-a-month contract with the caucus should end.
Rep. Steve Buehrer, a suburban Toledo Republican, stopped short of saying that Buerck should be fired, but said, "I'm hopeful that the speaker will take firm steps in a timely manner to restore the good name of the caucus campaign committee."
Gov. Bob Taft joined the critics Monday.
"It appears that the speaker is being ill-served by his political staff, and this is a problem he needs to address," Taft said in a prepared statement.
Taft did not identify the staff or recommend a course of action for Householder.
Other House leaders defended Householder, with Rep. Gary Cates, a Middletown Republican, accusing Blackwell of "election-year politics."
Blackwell plans to seek the GOP nomination for governor in 2006. Householder backs a rival candidate, Attorney General Jim Petro.
Petro would not comment on the criminal probe, but issued a statement that said, "There is no question that Speaker Householder has the responsibility to clean up whatever problems may exist within his own organization."
Petro's campaign severed its ties with Sisk but still employs Buerck.
Blackwell, however, made it clear that Householder - not his staff - deserves the bulk of the blame for the recent scandals.
"The speaker and his strategists love military analogies," Blackwell said. "So what we are observing is analogous to an admiral on a ship throwing low-ranking sailors overboard to protect his hide. . . . He hired the staff; he encouraged the staff."
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IIRC, wasn't it some sort of a corrupt bargain by which he gained the Speaker's chair in the first place, after the retirement of Jo Ann Davidson?
Gov. Bob Taft says House Speaker Larry Householder needs to fix the problems caused by his political advisers. Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell says Householder needs to give up his job as speaker.
The unsolicited advice from fellow Republicans came Householders way yesterday as federal investigators ramped up their probe of possible misdeeds by his top aides and several campaign vendors.
In a letter to Ohio GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett, Blackwell said, "We must do everything within our power to root out the political cancer that is doing great harm to our party and state."
Bennett rejected Blackwells request while cautioning against "any preliminary rush to judgment. The process must be given time to work itself out."
Taft, who rarely injects him- self into legislative matters, called the federal criminal investigation "a very serious matter" but declined to speculate "until all of the facts are in."
"It appears that the speaker is being ill-served by his political staff, and this is a problem he needs to address," Taft said.
Householder, a Perry County Republican in his second term as speaker, responded through a spokesman to Blackwells remarks.
"The speaker has no plans to step down as speaker," said Dwight Crum. "Were continuing to work on the important issues facing the state. Unfortunately, some people are more interested in playing politics."
In March, Blackwell referred allegations about Householders campaign fund-raising practices to the states two U.S. attorneys, who turned the matter over to the U.S. Department of Justices public-integrity section.
The probe of Householder and his closest aides was triggered by an anonymous ninepage memorandum made public that month. Along with the campaign-finance accusations against the House Republican Campaign Committee and its fund-raising consultants, it alleged violations of federal money-laundering, tax evasion and mail-fraud statutes.
"There is a pretty wide investigation by the feds," Blackwell said. "I would imagine this goes beyond the campaign staff of the speaker."
Blackwell, the states chief elections officer, and Householder, one of the partys most prolific fund-raisers, have clashed several times this year.
In January, Householder told The Dispatch, "Kenny is sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of Ohio politics" while Blackwell called the speaker "a schoolyard bully whos met his match this time."
Rep. James P. Trakas, a suburban Cleveland Republican and member of the House GOP leadership team, sided with the governor, saying Householder needs to take action soon.
"His first response was appropriate," Trakas said, referring to Householders explanation to the House Republican caucus when allegations first surfaced about possible kickbacks to vendors. "But there needs to be more of a response.
"He needs to do something publicly to show that this is affecting the governance of the House."
Bennett said: "The speaker is ultimately responsible for the behavior of his staff, and he should take firm and decisive action if his staff has crossed the line.
"No one has been found guilty of anything, and at this point, I would no sooner call on Larry Householder to resign than I would Ken Blackwell."
To that, Blackwell replied: "That indicates to me the chairman has an ethical blind spot."
Trakas agreed with Bennett.
"I respect Secretary Blackwell, but this is the wrong time to be ratcheting up the political fires," said Trakas, who also is chairman of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party.
In an interview, Blackwell said the Republican Party "must totally eliminate the infrastructure of intimidation and double-dealing that Team Householder has put in place."
Blackwell said he sees no conflict in his office continuing to investigate campaign finance-related complaints at the same time hes asking Householder to quit his leadership post.
"Party officials must cease and desist from advancing the sophomoric nonsense that this mess is the result of galloping testosterone of power hungry young operatives," he wrote in the letter.
"This scandal is the result of a political culture that is rapidly slouching into total darkness and a speaker who relishes being known as the prince of darkness."
Blackwell said its up to voters to decide whether Householder should continue as their state representative.
"Its very clear to me theyre starting to throw people overboard," Blackwell said. "There are folks who have culpability higher up in the food chain. This is tantamount to an admiral throwing his lowerechelon sailors overboard."
Go Blackwell! We need a major overhaul here.
Thanks for the ping, TonyRo76.
For those of you not familiar with Ohio state politics, Blackwell's the "good guy" Householder is the "bad guy".
And know you know just how my state ended up with a RINO Govenor, and two (2) RINO Senator's.
Anybody heard about a brewing "scandal" as it relates to Mike Dewine? Heard it mentioned in passing last night on Fox, but haven't read anything today about it. A Dewine staffer being paid to have sex was the "gist" of what I've heard....
Taft is one of the biggest RINOs around.
Have you been following the Citizens for Tax Repeal? Petro seems to be getting his hands in on this one as well.
You're very welcome. Good to hear from you, my FRiend :)
Anybody heard about a brewing "scandal" as it relates to Mike Dewine?
Thanks for the links.
I agree with your assessment of the despicable Bobby "Tax Em!" Taft. He's responsible for more unemployed Ohioians than any pol in Washington, of that I'm 100% certain.
And yes, I'm watching the CTR and Petro closely.
Blackwells harsh letter fans flames of GOP feud (Ohio)
IMHO Blackwell is the only hope for this party, plus the influx of new Reps and Senators coming in because of term limits.
I hope from the Lake County area we can put two solid conservatives, (Kresnye and Callender), into the House and Tim Grendell into the Senate from Lake/Geauga. Tim showed his conservative colors when he was a member of the Cavemen when it came to budgetary and spending issues, and is a very strong Second Amendment proponent.
I would hope that from across the state we would be able to elect similar Conservatives that would favor a Tax and Expenditure Limitation amendment to the Ohio constitution so that the Bennetts, Householders, Tafts, and Voinovichs cannot continue to poison the state with their tax and spend policies.
Hate to admit it, but the Pubbies were worse for the state than Celeste was.
In God We Trust
Funny thing is that DeWine is so geeky. Who'dda ever thunk this could come out of his office?
"Hate to admit it, but the Pubbies were worse for the state than Celeste was."
I agree completely. The RINO's have done more to hurt this state than anyone would initially believe.
Turnes out she's only been working for DeWine since February, prior to that she was in Liebermans office.
No different than Charlie Luken, current Mayor of Cincinnati. A few years back, old Charlie won a congressional seat....then suddenly resigned saying "the atomospher of Washington is so poisonous, I can't stay here".
The real story was Luken was having an affair with a staffer. His wife (pretty, intelligent, great lady) gave him the choice of resigning and coming home, or divorce.
Luken resigned, the tax payers paid a ton of money for a special election. Luken then runs for Mayor, wins...and has another affair with another staffer. This time, the wife divorced his ass.
You can't find a bigger Geek than Luken.
As for Dewine, I've never thought much of him, and when I do its usually negative. I have no use for any RINO.
I figured she had to be a Democrat or at least in some way connected with them. No true-blue Republican babe would have such a total lack of morals & self respect.
Hate to admit it, but the Pubbies were worse for the state than Celeste was.
This little scandal could be the salvation of the party. This might awaken the Ohio Republican Party to the nature of the people who have been the leadership of our party for many years.
Its time to set up the Revival Tent. We need a rebirth of the Republican Party.
Its time to admit our sins and repent.
And its time to excommunicate the unrepentant from the congregation.
Agreed - and a big RINO bump for ol' Charlie, too!
Paul, An man is not an "R" because he wears it on his name plate. He must live it in his heart. RINOs do not expand the size or power of the the Republican Party. They just give liberals two chances to win at the voting booth. It's time to purge the RINOs.
Allegations of fund-raising irregularities at the Statehouse spilled over into a race for Franklin County commissioner yesterday as Republican David Goodman fired two campaign consultants associated with Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.
Former Householder aides Brett Buerck and Kyle Sisk, hired by Goodman last fall to help with fund raising and strategy, were let go because "I need to be 100 percent focused on my campaign, not these political distractions," said Goodman, a state senator.
Buerck, a former House Republican chief of staff, and Sisk, a party fund-raiser, are among the targets of a federal investigation into allegations of bribery, tax and mail fraud, and kickbacks from their work with Householder.
The allegations were detailed in a nine-page anonymous memo forwarded in March by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell to U.S. attorneys.
Goodman is challenging incumbent Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy, a Democrat who this week issued her second call in two months for the Republican to fire Buerck and Sisk.
"We dont need the kind of sleazy fund-raising tactics associated with Householder in Franklin County," Kilroy said in a statement that also challenged Goodman to return nearly $35,000 in contributions from political funds controlled by Householder and his allies.
Goodman said his decision had nothing to do with Kilroys statements.
"This was prompted by my decision to focus on the issues that matter to the people of Franklin County," he said. "Its typical of my opponent to focus on the negative and attack, rather than focus on a positive vision for our community."
Goodman said he will not return contributions from Householders campaign fund, the Ohio GOP state candidate fund and the campaign account of state Attorney General Jim Petro, for whom Sisk also has worked.
He instead criticized Kilroy for accepting a $1,000 contribution last fall from talk-show host Jerry Springer.
Kilroys criticism of Householder, Buerck and Sisk wasnt the first this week from public officials. Earlier, Ohio GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett said Householder should rethink his association with the two, and Blackwell said Householder should step down.
In an interview, Kilroy echoed the words of Bennett, who said of the allegations: "You have to think where theres a lot of smoke, theres a little bit of fire."
"Theres more than enough smoke for there to be fire," Kilroy said yesterday.
She said the fund-raising tactics of a group that calls itself "Team Householder" are designed to conceal the sources of campaign money and the identities of donors. She said Goodman, through his hiring of Buerck and Sisk, "has made himself part of Team Householder."
I have to say Householder and his "cronies" appear to be engaging in some rather unsavory conduct, but it also seems to me that a closer look at the "deep background" of this "anonymous memo" and resulting investigation into the Householder allegations might turn up something to do with a Democrat rival for Attorney General, or something...or am I thinking of some other case? Do I remember something about "Mason"?!
LOL! I don't know my Ohio politics very well, I'm afraid...but I will remedy that, and while I tend to think quite highly of Blackwell (from what I know), he really shouldn't be fanning any flames here, IMHO. It just plays into the hands of the Democrats who I suspect are helping this whole little "feud" along, and who are likely the instigator in the first place...
GOP still paying consultants linked to probe
House speakers fund-raiser also issued subpoena
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Jon Craig and Robert Ruth
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The Ohio Republican Party will continue to pay salaries and expenses to campaign consultants who are under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, a party spokesman said yesterday.
State GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett has criticized several of the consultants because of their connection to the federal probe into the campaign activities of House Speaker Larry Householder, who pays them out of the House GOPs campaign fund.
Yet campaign-finance reports show the Ohio Republican Party also is paying those consultants, including Householder fund-raiser Kyle Sisk and former chief of staff Brett Buerck.
Ohio GOP spokesman Jason Mauk said Bennett can stop the flow of state party money to Householders campaign aides at any time.
"Until we reach some finality in this investigation, it would be premature for us to take any action," Mauk said.
"The same goes for the speaker. We believe the process should be given time to work itself out. No one has been found guilty.... There has been no conviction or evidence of wrongdoing."
The Dispatch also has learned:
Ohio Legislative Inspector General James E. Rogers said yesterday he will look into possible violations of ethics and lobbying laws.
Sisk received one of at least six federal subpoenas for documents issued by the departments public-integrity section in Washington to GOP consultants. It was reported earlier that Sam van Voorhis, Steven Weaver and Thomas B. Whatman also received subpoenas, which were issued earlier this month and set deadlines next month for financial records and other documents to be turned over to investigators.
Buerck reportedly had not received a subpoena, but investigators are curious about his missing laptop computer presumed stolen, according to government sources. Buerck of German Village declined to comment on the investigation.
Several of the people involved in the investigation have hired highpowered attorneys. Householder of Glenford has retained William C. Wilkinson, who successfully defended James G. Jackson in his fight to keep his job as Columbus police chief. Sisk of Upper Arlington has hired Sam B. Weiner, one of central Ohios top criminal-defense litigators. Buerck has hired S. Michael Miller, a former Franklin County prosecutor. And van Voorhis has hired Charles R. "Rocky" Saxbe, a former state legislator whose firm has represented numerous politicians and public employees.
Van Voorhis was mentioned in a nine-page anonymous memorandum that triggered the investigation in March. Among other allegations, the memo said van Voorhis consulting company, Majority Strategies, overcharged the House GOP caucus for campaign literature and then returned the excess to Householder through Buerck.
Mauk said "accusations fly around all the time" and that it would "set a bad precedent to take harsh action. . . . Obviously if the speaker perceives he has a problem with the staff he should take harsh action. We prefer to leave that decision to the speaker."
Records show the state GOP paid Sisk & Associates $75,000 on Feb. 20, $30,000 last fall and $15,000 in 2002 for political consulting. It also paid $79,000 for unspecified consulting for the Elect Householder Committee this year as well as $12,000 to First Tuesday Consulting, a firm run by Buerck.
Since 1999, Sisk & Associates has been paid more than $170,000 in consulting fees and expenses from the Republican Partys State Candidate Fund, according to finance reports.
The same fund has been used to pay nearly $65,000 in salaries and expenses since 2002 for three other campaign consultants who now work with Buerck and Sisk in a 22 ndfloor suite at the Bank One building.
In addition to the House Republican Campaign Committee and Householders campaign, the Bank One office space is being used for the reelection campaign of U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Columbus Republican.
William M. Todd, attorney for Informed Citizens of Ohio, said the organization received a federal subpoena dated May 7 that sought all disbursements since the issue-advocacy group was formed in early 2002. The independent group paid for television ads during the 2002 Ohio Supreme Court races.
"Were preparing a response," Todd said. "Well report every dollar ever spent."
Whatman is treasurer of Informed Citizens, while Sisk worked as its fund-raiser.
Buerck left the state payroll as chief of staff on Aug. 8 to become a consultant.
Buerck is a general consultant to the 2004 effort to keep Republicans in control of the House and is expected to promote Householders 2006 bid for state auditor or treasurer.
Before the office in the Bank One building last year, Buerck and Sisk had used space at the state GOP headquarters, Mauk said.
Attorney General Jim Petro stopped using Sisk as a fundraiser in late January. Sen. David Goodman, a candidate for Franklin County commissioner, ended his campaign consulting contract with Sisk and Buerck on Tuesday.
Sisk also worked on the campaign to elect Dayton Republican Michael Turner to Congress last year, according to finance records.
Head of Householder probe expert in corruption cases
Friday, May 28, 2004
Robert Ruth and Jon Craig
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The Washington lawyer overseeing the investigation of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householders campaign activities and consultants has prosecuted public-corruption cases across the country.
John W. Scotts highest-profile case was the unsuccessful prosecution of two Utah community leaders accused of bribing members of the International Olympic Committee to choose Salt Lake City as the site of the 2002 Winter Games.
Scott, a 45-year-old senior trial lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justices public-integrity section, has had successes, too, winning corruption convictions in Alabama and Texas.
Scott is overseeing the Ohio probe and is expected to lead any prosecution if there are charges, but the investigation itself is being handled by FBI and IRS agents in Columbus.
Assistant U.S. attorneys based in Columbus have prosecuted several local public-corruption cases, including businessmen accused of bribing Harold W. "Hal" Hyrne, former city manager of Upper Arlington.
But the accusations against Householder and the consultants were seen as so politically sensitive that the case was referred to Washington. Scott and other lawyers for the public-integrity section routinely travel throughout the nation prosecuting federal corruption cases.
Scott and another Justice Department lawyer prosecuted the Olympics bribery case, which ended in December when a federal judge dismissed felony charges against two of the men who led Salt Lake Citys bidding effort for the Winter Games.
Six months earlier, Scott helped win guilty pleas in Alabama from a former top aide to the governor and two Montgomery businessmen on bribery charges.
He also was co-prosecutor in a bribery case involving a former Houston city councilman and a former Houston port commissioner. Both were convicted in December 1998.
Scott declined to comment about the Householder case.
Toledo Blade Editorial
Article published Friday, May 28, 2004
'Kicking back' in Columbus
NOW that Republican fratricide in the Statehouse has become grist for a federal investigation, there's no telling how far the political damage will spread, or which GOP leaders may be tarred.
The most likely victim is House Speaker Larry Householder, whose overbearing fund-raising tactics have not endeared him to many in his own party. Getting back at Mr. Householder certainly was the goal of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who gave the U.S. Justice Department an anonymous memo with details of a purported kickback scheme by the speaker involving contracts for party activities.
The move was payback by Mr. Blackwell, who was the target of an aborted proposal by Householder advisers to defeat the secretary of state's maverick attempt to roll back the temporary state sales tax increase and "dismantle" him as a candidate for governor in 2006.
Federal subpoenas now have been issued to vendors who did work for the Ohio Republican Party. The allegation, serious enough that it reportedly has been bucked up to the Justice Department's public integrity section in Washington, is that the vendors overcharged the party for services, then passed on the overage to Mr. Householder's operation.
Such activity would be criminal, but since no public money is involved, it remains to be seen whether the budding scandal will have any impact on Ohio voters, who over the past two decades have given the GOP a hammerlock on state government.
Mr. Householder denies any wrongdoing, but it is instructive that Bob Bennett, state Republican chairman, concedes that the scandal is gaining at least some traction at the expense of the speaker, who is exploring a run for state auditor in 2006.
As Mr. Bennett put it: "You have to think where there's a lot of smoke, there's a little bit of fire."
The GOP chief's reticence to unconditionally support Mr. Householder's claim of innocence might be interpreted as a move to inoculate the state party in the event that the federal investigation turns up evidence of crimes.
While we do not prejudge the outcome, we continue to believe that one-party rule promotes an atmosphere of arrogance and entitlement in which kickbacks and other such activities tend to thrive.
Moreover, when politicians are busy squabbling with each other, it should surprise no one that the state's important public policy problems get kicked into the background.
I'm thinking of becoming a decline to state. Republicans make me sick.
But it causes me more questions! One article says "consultants continued to be paid", but in the "big picture", the payments were pretty paltry over a period of time...hardly a lucrative "scheme" for the trouble it seems to be causing...
Then...no question that it's "politically sensitive", as another article states, and that Federal investigator/possible prosecutor Scott is a top-notch guy, but I'm really curious about his "win-loss" record...not about him, but about the "targets" of his investigations...any "political party pattern" to those who were successfully prosecuted vs. those who were exonerated?
Lastly...I haven't read the Dispatch for years, but I have a real problem with one-paper towns whose editors write things like "While we do not prejudge the outcome, we continue to believe that one-party rule promotes an atmosphere of arrogance and entitlement in which kickbacks and other such activities tend to thrive."...these same "editors" are writing the headlines, assigning the news reporters, and editing the "wire" stories that make it to print...the PD is the same way, and I'd just say, "caveat emptor", my FReeper friend!! < sigh >
GOP fund-raiser dropped by Tiberi
Probe may interfere with fall campaign, congressman says
Friday, May 28, 2004
Robert Ruth and Jon Craig
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Problems continued to mount yesterday for Kyle S. Sisk, once one of Ohios most influential political fundraisers, as another Republican officeholder fired him in the midst of a federal investigation into possible campaign-spending irregularities.
U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Republican from Columbus, announced he has canceled Sisks contract with the congressmans re-election campaign.
Sisk, who has raised money for a variety of GOP candidates, is a key figure in the federal probe of consultants and campaign activities of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican from Glenford.
Tiberis campaign paid Sisks consulting business $92,487 during the 2001-02 campaign cycle, according to Federal Elections Commission reports. Tiberi said he had used Sisk as a fund-raiser since 1999.
"He and his associates have done a wonderful job," Tiberi said. "I have never experienced any problems."
He said he fears, however, that Sisks legal difficulties will interfere with Sisks ability to focus on this years election.
On Tuesday, state Sen. David Goodman, a Bexley Republican, fired Sisk as his fund-raiser for the campaign for Franklin County commissioner.
In contrast, Ohio GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett has refused to follow suit, saying decisions about firing consultants to the House Republican Campaign Committee should be left to Householder.
Since 1999, Sisk & Associates has been paid more than $170,000 in consulting fees and expenses from the Republican Partys State Candidate Fund, according to finance reports.
A spokesman for the state party said this week that such a dismissal "would be premature" until the federal probe is near completion.
Sisk, whose business records have been subpoenaed by federal agents, has hired Sam B. Weiner, one of central Ohios top criminal-defense attorneys.
Sisk did not return phone messages from The Dispatch.
In a related development, Dennis L. White, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said the allegations extend far beyond a handful of Householder aides.
"These vendors were groomed in politics by the Ohio Republican Party and continue to work regularly for Republicans at the state and local level," he said. "The Republican Party created this monster, and it is time for the GOP to cage it."
White called on all of the states GOP leaders to insist that Republican candidates suspend all business with these vendors rather than merely scold Householder for his close connections.
Meanwhile, Jason Mauk, a spokesman for the state GOP, acknowledged that Bennett has been hired to perform consulting work for Thomas B. Whatmans national clients through Strategic Public Partners, a Whatmanowned business.
Whatman, former executive director of the state GOP party, is treasurer of Informed Citizens of Ohio, a group that financed campaign ads in 2002 for the Ohio Supreme Court races.
Mauk said Bennett has never done work for Informed Citizens.
Federal investigators have served subpoenas for Informed Citizens expenses as well as the business records of Sisk, Whatman and two other Republican campaign consultants, Steven Weaver and Sam Van Voorhis.
Brett T. Buerck, who once served as chief of staff for Householder, a press secretary for the state GOP and spokesman for Gov. Bob Tafts 1998 campaign, has not been served with a subpoena. However, federal investigators also are looking at his activities.
Householder and the consultants were accused in an anonymous March 2 letter of participating in a scheme to siphon off money from Republican campaigns for kickbacks. The alleged conspirators are potentially guilty of numerous crimes, the ninepage letter alleged, including bribery, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion.
The letter was sent to federal and state officials and has resulted in FBI and IRS investigations.
Householder has denied any wrongdoing. Most of the others mentioned in the letter have been unavailable for comment.
HOUSE MEMBERS RETREAT
Consultants role on GOP agenda
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Lee Leonard , Robert Ruth and Jon Craig
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The future of political consultants ensnared in a mushrooming federal investigation will be a major topic during a two-day retreat next week of Ohio House Republicans, a top GOP legislator said yesterday.
State Rep. Jon Husted of Kettering, likely speaker of the House starting next year, said he wants some guidance on the campaign staff from his fellow GOP representatives.
"We will have that discussion," he said, adding that he would comment further after the retreat.
Husted said he has asked House Speaker Larry Householder of Glenford to make sure the controversial consultants are on the agenda when the 62-member GOP House caucus holds its retreat Downtown.
Term limits prohibit Householder from seeking reelection to the House this year.
The investigation was launched in March after federal and state officials received an anonymous nine-page memorandum accusing Householder and campaign consultants of participating in a scheme to siphon money from Republican campaigns for kickbacks.
Federal investigators have served subpoenas on at least four of the consultants: Kyle S. Sisk, Thomas B. Whatman, Sam van Voorhis and Steven Weaver. The subpoenas demand that records involving their campaign-consulting activities be turned over in June.
A fifth aide, Brett T. Buerck, Householders former chief of staff, has not been served a subpoena, but investigators also are interested in his activities.
All five consultants, whose businesses have been paid millions of dollars to assist GOP candidates, were mentioned in the memo. Individual House Republican candidates and the House GOP caucuss campaign committee are among the consultants most lucrative clients.
Although the memo precipitated the probe, federal agents are believed to be interested in expanding their inquiry into campaign fund raising by Republicans in general and whether these activities affected the way in which legislation wound its way through the General Assembly.
John W. Scott, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice who has prosecuted publiccorruption cases throughout the nation, is overseeing the investigation by Columbus FBI and IRS agents.
Householder repeatedly has denied any wrongdoing. The consultants have been unavailable for comment.
Husted emphasized that Householder is the leader of the Republican caucus through this year.
"The speaker is in control of the campaign committee," he said. "I dont want to assume that Im in charge of something."
Husted also noted that the election of the speaker for next year is still months away.
Before next weeks retreat, Husted said, he wants to review material compiled about the consultants by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a fellow Republican.
"I have made a request to . . . Blackwell for all the information he has gathered," Husted said. "I am going to look at all the information I can get my hands on and try to gather some facts. Im not going to be spending any time at backyard barbecues this weekend."
Blackwell, who has been one of Householders most vocal critics, also received a copy of the anonymous nine-page memo and has gathered his own information about the consultants.
He was not enthusiastic about assisting Husted.
"If he wants information, he should go to the (campaign) treasurer or to Larry (Householder) and get the correspondence," Blackwell said. "Im not having a private meeting with him."
In other developments:
HMS Partners, one of the states most prominent publicrelations businesses, has turned over to investigators billing records involving its work for Informed Citizens of Ohio, an issues-advocacy group. One of the federal subpoenas asks for records from Informed Citizens.
Informed Citizens was operated primarily by Republicans, including Householder and Akron businessman David Brennan, a major Republican supporter. Whatman served as its treasurer. The groups television ads during the 2002 Ohio Supreme Court elections focused on frivolous lawsuits, affordable and accessible health care, worker training and fair taxation.
State Sen. David Goodman, a Bexley Republican, said Sisk did not give him any improper advice when acting as the senators fund-raiser. Before being fired this month, Sisk was chief fund-raiser for Goodmans bid to be elected a Franklin County commissioner.
Sisk reportedly wrote Goodman a memo listing the names of potential donors for his commissioner race. The list reportedly included political issues in which each would-be donor was interested and amounts of money the potential donors could be asked to contribute.
Goodman declined to discuss the memo. However, he said such information is routinely provided to candidates by consultants.
"Ive gotten good advice and bad advice . . . from people who were in my employ. I take that advice and follow it sometimes."
Akron Beacon Journal Editorial
Posted on Sun, May. 30, 2004
Are Ohio Republicans losing their grip?
Larry Householder is finding out what it's like to be in a war of words with J. Kenneth Blackwell. The Ohio House speaker and secretary of state have been sparring back and forth, with Blackwell questioning Householder's campaign finances and Householder aides (according to a leaked memo) plotting to destroy Blackwell's political career while boosting the speaker's plan to run statewide.
Recently, the feuding within the Republican camp became an out-and-out slug fest. News broke that a federal grand jury had issued subpoenas to some of Householder's top campaign vendors. At issue, according to a separate, anonymous memo, is whether vendors were overpaid, with kickbacks to Householder and top aides.
The federal probe also includes the activities of a secret group called Informed Citizens of Ohio, organized by David Brennan to air campaign ads in Ohio Supreme Court races. The anonymous memo says vendors were overpaid, with some of the money going back to Householder.
Blackwell promptly urged Householder, ``the prince of darkness'' in a decaying political culture, to step down and apologize for ``political racketeering.'' Householder dismissed Blackwell's call for a resignation as ``ridiculous.'' He again asserted that the anonymous allegations have ``absolutely no base.'' The speaker said he had a lot of important work to do, so he wouldn't be taking any action in response to the subpoenas until later.
The rhetoric from Blackwell may be overheated. Householder's dodge about pursuing public policy is laughable. What the war of words tends to obscure are serious questions about Team Householder and the Republicans' long grip on power.
It is hardly surprising that Householder's tactics should come under such close scrutiny. His drive for power and campaign cash apparently knows no limits. Lately, he has pounded on trial lawyers, while taking their campaign money. A former aide, Brett Buerck, works for the Republican caucus (which is for limits on jury awards) and the trial lawyers.
Those like Householder and his aides, who have come to power after the Republican Party completed its long comeback, display an arrogance built on the fixation they will always be on top. Ohio's cyclical political history teaches otherwise. Householder appears determined to learn the hard way.
Black Conservative Ping, as well.
Blackwell is the man, and if he takes on the establishment, the voters will support him.
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