CINCINNATI (TDB) -- They are not billed as courses in how to develop and exercise political clout. But exerting influence at the Statehouse is what these taxpayer subsidized classes are all about. The Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs -- a state agency whose members are appointed by the governor -- is sponsoring workshops across the state designed to create a whole new crop of lobbyists. Some details are here on the commission's Web site. A session was held Friday in Cincinnati and the flier for the program says:
"Participants will also learn how to effectively engage in legislative advocacy by recognizing the areas of responsibility within the House and Senate. At the end of the workshop, they will be prepared to identify and select appropriate officials with whom to speak, participants will also learn to evaluate the best approach of engagement -- written correspondence, telephone calls and/or visits. This workshop is part of OCHLA's [the state commission] Grassroots Capacity Building Initiative."
That should raise alarms bells everywhere. The Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs -- a relatively obscure panel -- has traipsed close to meddling in the political process by trying to create lobbyists. Obviously, all citizens have the right to petition their government. But few have been coached in how to do it by the government. In this case, state funds are being spent to pay for lobbying classes specifically designed to target Ohio lawmakers. And with issues such as immigration and "English only" on the legislative agenda -- issues that stir deep passions on both sides of the debate -- should Ohio's Hispanic and Latino population receive advocacy training subsidized by taxpayers? The goal of the program seems to be to help what the commission calls "'New American' populations across our state . . ."