According to the website for Ohio’s Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), there are 465 active lobbyist registrations related to JobsOhio, Kasich’s secretive, public-private development organization. Kasich’s long time friend Don Thibaut is personally registered to lobby JobsOhio for 9 different organizations.
Which leaves me scratching my head.
If JobsOhio really is a completely private organization, as the Kasich administration claims, then why do lobbyists have to register with a state ethics group in order to communicate with the organization on behalf of their clients?
Don’t get me wrong, given the amount of money we’re giving JobsOhio – $6+ Billion in public funds over 25 years - and the fact that everything at JobsOhio is shrouded in secrecy and open to corruption due to a lack of transparency and oversight, it’s a good thing lobbyists need to register.
Sadly, lobbyists are only one side of the equation. And when you have an organization like JobsOhio that claims to be exempt from public records requests, public audits and ethics investigations, the other side of that equation becomes very important, especially in areas like financial disclosure.
Lobbyists have to file quarterly reports indicating how much they spent on things like meals or gifts for the people they lobby. All of these forms are available online. Members of the legislature and statewide office holders also have to file financial disclosure statements in which they must declare any gifts, meals, etc received from lobbyists.
While both of these documents could be greatly improved to provide more transparency, at least the public has access to both sets of documents, so we have some ability for us to keep them both honest.
But in the case of JobsOhio, financial disclosure forms for employees and board members have been specifically excluded from public documents laws. So there is no way for us to know if any of the hundreds of people registered to lobby JobsOhio are being honest.
Thibuat, for example, has indicated he spent zero dollars on lobbying JobsOhio for all of his clients in 2013. And we’ll just have to take his word for it because the public has no second set of data against which to compare his numbers.
Given that The Dayton Daily News and the Ohio Ethics Commission have both discovered conflict of interest problems at JobsOhio, with a majority of the board members having direct financial ties to companies that received assistance from JobsOhio, it isn’t too much of a stretch to think that JobsOhio’s internal conflict of interest policy, and their ability to enforce it, might be lacking in other areas like financial disclosure of lobbyist gifts.
John Kasich came into office promising to get the lobbyist “snouts” out of the government “trough”. Nearly three years into his term, it’s clear that Kasich simply wanted to make room for different snouts, like Don Thibaut, Kasich’s former chief-of-staff and decades-long friend, who is now making a great deal of money in his new job lobbying Kasich’s JobsOhio and even Kasich himself.
Yes, Kasich’s long-time friend Don Thibaut is paid by 21 different companies to lobby the Governor’s Office.
Snout, meet Trough.