COLUMBUS (TDB) -- When Republican Gov. Bob Taft left office earlier this month, his "Friends of Governor Taft" campaign committee quietly filed its finance report with the secretary of state's office. But there was a $26,844 bombshell that lay unnoticed in the Jan. 8 spending report. The expenditure of that sum is labeled a ''contribution refund" to the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation from Taft's campaign acount.
Assuming that the report is correct -- and it was prepared by an accounting firm paid by Friends of Governor Taft -- the entry strongly suggests a branch of state government made an improper political donation to its boss's campaign committee. The refund was made on Nov. 16, 2006, not long after Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland beat Ken Blackwell and ended 16 years of GOP control of the state's highest office.
Some may wonder: Isn't it unethical for a state government agency to use public money to finance campaigns? The answer: It is.
Interestingly, there does not seem to be a record showing that the OBWC made any financial contributions.
The expenditure report is available HERE on Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's campaign finance site. The Daily Bellwether found the refund today when 2006 campaign finance fundraising and spending reports were due.
It is almost unimaginable that a state government agency made political donations. It is almost unimaginable that a governor's campaign committee accepted any. Could there be some other explanation possible other than "contribution refund" as the report shows?
The OBWC has been tarnished with scandal, most of it erupting from the agency's dealings with corrupt GOP fundraiser Tom Noe, who landed a deal to handle rare coin investments. There are also indications that it was influenced by state lawmakers to give workers comp insurance rate discounts to a handful of employers. Could it have carried Taft's campaign committee on the pad? Could it have failed to bill for insurance?
Taft's committee spent $69,762.36 last year. The OBWC "contribution refund" was its largest single expenditure in 2006. This looks bad, really bad -- either dumb, a mistake, dishonest or incompetent. With the Democrats now in power, there's little doubt Ohioans are going to learn what happened and why Friends of Governor Taft sent that check.