I'm thinking of becoming a decline to state. Republicans make me sick.
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."