When Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern repeated an appearance at an event for Cuyahoga Falls mayoral candidate Don Walters, he asserted that Gov. John Kasich was running for president. “Absolutely,” Redfern told me. “100 pct!” That at least suggested that the state party’s front office was keeping an eye on Kasich’s every hint of national aspirations even as the governor was running for re-election next year.
But what at first seemed to foreordain a cakewalk for the governor the second time around is now running instead into the sort of messy stuff that hardly eases his rite of passage against his Democratic rival, Ed FitzGerald, next year.
The past week was his worst since the hard-edged governor entered office boorishly calling a Columbus police officer an idiot.
In a major piece, the Toledo Blade blew a wide hole in Kasich’s many boasts of job creation through tax incentives under a headline, Many Jobs State Says it Creates Don’t Exist.
The paper reported it found errors in 37 pct. of grant reports and are an “example of lapses in the way Ohio manages its business incentives,” including job-creation numbers. So the state is “hard-pressed to recoup the money it lends or gives to companies that fail to create jobs.”
Unsurprisingly, the paper said Kasich’s office refused requests for comments on the article. (Kasich once said he doesn’t read newspapers and more recently his spokesman said the governor will not speak to reporters.)
PART TWO: The Columbus Dispatch reported Saturday that Jonathan Hook, Ohio State University’s chief investment officer, opposed the school’s $50 million investment in a venture capital fund headed by Kasich’s close friend, Mark Kvamme. According to a memo the newspaper received from OSU, Hook said Kvamme’s Drive Capital fund “is still very much unproven at this stage. The fund hasn’t demonstrated proof-of-concept, doesn’t offer (redacted) the historical track record and carries a variety of other risks and unknowns. In summary, it does not meet our traditional underwriting standards and risk/return criteria.”
But it did meet the standards of Kasich ally E. Gordon Gee, who decided to move the money to Kvamme before Gee retired as OSU’s president. So impressed with Gee’s insider talent, Kvamme’s business partner, Chris Olson, praised Gee in a another memo as an “influencer” who could persuade other universities to join the investment parade to Kvamme.
Back in June, according to the memos obtained by the Dispatch, Gee influenced a skeptical Joseph A. Alutto, the school’s incoming interim president, to support the deal. Alutto had expressed concerns about the size of the investment. But a week before Gee retired, he emailed Geoff Chatas, OSU’s chief financial officer with good news.
“I spoke with Joe Alutto today and told him we had to honor the Kvamme agreement,” Gee wrote. “He agreed. We are back on solid ground. Make that happen quickly.”
It did. How could it not with the inner circle of powerful friends named Kasich, Kvamme and Gee. Folks, don’t let the details confuse you. Just consider it a deal that doesn’t pass the smell test.