Toledo Blade: Governor ignores ethics

There is much going right in Ohio and Gov. Mike DeWine is deeply involved in many factors driving economic growth around the state. The governor’s grasp of policy detail was obvious in a wide-ranging discussion with The Blade Editorial Board and Columbus Bureau Chief Jim Provance.

So it’s troubling that DeWine had no policy proposals on the most glaring problem at the Statehouse: the deeply embedded culture of corruption behind criminal convictions on bribery charges for legislation that forced every Ohio resident and business to enrich FirstEnergy and the state’s other electric utilities.

We’re not going to rehash the details of the scandal as they are well-known after nearly three years of coverage. But in sentencing former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges for their roles in the bribery case, federal Judge Timothy Black said there is a “threat to government legitimacy in Ohio.”

There is no more important issue for Governor DeWine than ethics reform in response to the assessment from federal court that business as usual at the Statehouse “is doing immeasurable damage to the institution of democracy in Ohio.”

Success on every policy proposal becomes a failure if state government legitimacy is degraded by indifference to corruption. DeWine told The Blade, “I am in favor or any kind of reform that would be deemed constitutional and bring more transparency.”

There is an ethics reform bill in the Ohio House, filled with transparency provisions Governor DeWine should be pushing to get passed. House Bill 16 is designed to prevent the appointment of utility regulators with multimillion-dollar ties to the industry.

The $22 million in consulting contracts between former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo and FirstEnergy would have to have been disclosed publicly in the application process for a PUCO appointment.

Randazzo has been indicted on 11 felony counts for his alleged assistance to FirstEnergy while presiding over Ohio utility regulation.