COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich has received about $445,000 in campaign contributions from people he appointed to state boards and commissions in 2011, according to numbers provided by the Ohio Democratic Party.
Those figures, which were independently verified by The Dispatch, show that Kasich received contributions totaling $445,301 from 101 people who were among the hundreds he appointed during his first year in office, including more than $64,000 from JobsOhio board members.
The contributions are permitted by state law and are common for gubernatorial appointees for most administrations. The total dollar amount Kasich has received from his appointees is likely much higher — there have been hundreds more appointments made in Kasich’s second and third years as governor.
On Monday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald hinted strongly that dollar figures would soon be released showing that Kasich had received sizable contributions from appointees.
FitzGerald made the statement in response to questions about a complaint the Ohio Republican Party has filed with the Ohio Elections Commission accusing FitzGerald of failing to quickly return what it said was an illegal contribution from someone he appointed to a county economic-development board.
While state law allows a governor or lawmakers to receive campaign contributions from an appointee, a Cuyahoga County ordinance prohibits the same practice for the county executive or county council members.
“It is very clear that Gov. Kasich has one set of rules for himself and another for everyone else,” said Meredith Tucker, a spokeswoman for FitzGerald’s campaign.
She is referring to what the Fitzgerald campaign believes is too much attention being paid by Republicans to the $1,000 contribution FitzGerald received from an appointee, which has since been returned.
But the Republican Party counters that it is asking only that FitzGerald follow an ethics law he sought as county executive, having come into office in 2011 on the heels of a countywide corruption scandal that led to voters adopting a new form of county government. Republicans note that FitzGerald didn’t return the contribution until after the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported the contribution was made on Sept. 3.
The FitzGerald campaign says the county’s inspector general “missed” the contribution when it was first sent to her for review, and the fact that the campaign has flagged nine contributions to be returned shows he is following county law.
“He follows the policy until he doesn’t follow it,” said Chris Schrimpf, a Republican Party spokesman.
So which side is right? Government watchdog Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio says both.
“Do I believe Ed FitzGerald broke the law (in Cuyahoga County)? Yes,” Turcer said. “On the other hand, he has a really good point he’s broaching that there should be the same level of standards with the state. When you get into people who contribute that much money who are getting appointments, you have to question whether the state is being best served.”
Turcer noted her criticism of the relationship between appointees and their political contributions is not specific to the Kasich administration.