COLUMBUS (TDB) -- Conservatives who suspect the Ohio Republican Party tilted in favor of former Attorney General Jim Petro during his unsuccessful primary against Ken Blackwell last year now have some evidence. A $9,000 check went from Petro's campaign to GOP headquarters to reimburse the state party for unspecified personnel services during the contest to win the 2006 gubernatorial nomination.
The payment shows up amid year-end campaign expense reports that Citizens for Jim Petro filed in Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office this week. The money is not listed as a political donation. Instead, it is reported as "Misc-Balance Due Primary Personnel Svs." The line item suggests somebody at state headquarters did some work for the Clevelander, and that the Petro camp was billed $9,000.
The report is a public document that can be viewed by clicking here and reading through the pages. The payment was dated Aug. 1, 2006.
On the other side of the transaction, the Ohio GOP's post-primary finance report for its state candidate's fundraising arm discloses a $9,000 "contribution" from Citizens for Petro on that date. The more detailed personnel services explanation shows up in Petro's paperwork, which was filed after Blackwell was out of office and out of the picture as a force majeur.
During the primary, there were reports that state GOP headquarters -- which was supposed to be neutral -- actually preferred Petro over Blackwell. The Toledo Blade said in March that $1.49 million in contributions had gone to his campaign from a party account. Until the Petro-Blackwell contest, Ohio GOP Chairman had managed to avoid primaries by convincing candidates not to run against each other. In 1998, for example, he got Blackwell to run for Secretary of State and drop his plans to run against former Gov. Bob Taft.
Blackwell was ambitious and easily defeated Petro in the primary last May, but he lost big in November to Ted Strickland, who reclaimed the governors office for the Democrats after 16 years of Republican control. Petro is out office and working as a private lawyer in Columbus, but his expenditure report shows he donated thousands of dollars to candidates last year, including $10,000 to Betty Montgomery, who hoped to succeed him but lost to Democrat Marc Dann. Petro also gave money to Phil Heimlich, who for a time was his running mate but dropped off the ticket to run for re-election as a Hamilton County Commissioner. Heimlich lost. Petro also made contributions to State Sen. Joy Padgett, who replaced Heimlich as his running mate. Padgett later tried to win a congressional seat, but was defeated by Democrat Zack Space.
There did not seem to be any money that flowed from Citizens for Jim Petro to Blackwell. (Maybe the donations are there and I missed them.)