On June 13th, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges sent out this tweet: “It’s time to come clean w family, friends & taxpayers. It will be better for you in the long run.”

That tweet, combined with other public records requested by the Republican Governors Association and others who have a stake in reelecting Gov. John Kasich this year, are at the heart of why Ed FitzGerald directly confronted Gov. Kasich today, asking him to come clean on knowing about what he called an “expedition to find dirt.” And if the governor says he doesn’t know about this kind of “gutter politics,” FitzGerald challenged him to condemn the attacks, and tell those behind the attacks to stop smearing his name. And if perpetrators are people over whom the Kasich Administration has control or influence, they should be fired, FitzGerald said.

In 2004, Borges pleaded guilty to steering state investment business when he was chief of staff for Republican Treasurer Joe Deters, essentially selling public contracts in exchange for political contributions.  That wasn’t a problem for Gov. John Kasich who brought in Borges to run the ORP soon after he orchestrated a coup by deposing its  next-gen leader Kevin DeWine, the  former House rep, and kin to Attorney General Mike DeWine, who oversaw the GOP’s big wins four years ago.

FitzFOPEd FitzGerald, the Ohio Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate this year to unseat first-term incumbent Republican Gov. John Kasich, was steely Friday afternoon, when he changed his schedule to talk to reporters at the downtown Columbus headquarters of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police.

FitzGerald showed up in shirt-sleeves, whereupon he presented his version of an incident reported by a law enforcement offices in Westlake, in the early hours of the morning, in which he and a female passenger were parked in his car. Sitting next to Fraternal Order of Police President Jay McDonald, Mr. FitzGerald directly confronted Gov. John Kasich for knowing about or condoning opposition research with emails he  provided to reporters that show Dennis Clough, the Republican Mayor Westlake, was looking for “dirt” on FitzGerald. Mr. FitzGerald alleges that Mayor Clough and others used pubic resources for political or private use, a violation of Ohio law. An attorney, former FBI agent and assistant prosecutor, FitzGerald said the quest to opposition research on him constitutes “theft in office.”

“It is not a coincidence that Mr. Kasich and his team have chosen this moment, where we are starting to coalesce support, particularly around my record on law enforce and my support for law enforcement, both in my eight years in law enforcement and also as a mayor and county executive, that they have chosen this moment in the campaign to try and inject a personal attack, which is as low as it gets.” he told reporters gathered at FOP headquarters.

Ed and Shannon FitzGerald released the following joint statement today: “We are extremely disappointed at the personal attacks being levied against our family. And equally upset that our friends in Ireland are being unjustly dragged into this negative campaign. We are confident that this attack will be exposed for what it is – untrue and opportunistic – and, hope that we can quickly move onto the discussion of what is best for Ohio’s families. We’re extremely proud of our family, and the support system we’ve provided to one another for the last 23 years. No matter what happens in this campaign or in November, that will never change.”

Less than two years ago, in October of 2012, FitzGerald, serious and sober throughout the event with the exception of smiling wryly when claiming Irish heritage, was one of a group of people hosting an Irish trade delegation. Following evening activities, that included a reception and dinner, the group of friends separated into two groups, some riding in an SUV because of its size and Mr. FitzGerald and a female passenger in FitzGerald’s red Ford. There were no taxis available at that early hour, so they drove, at the request of he delegation. In those wee hours of the morning, possible as late as 4:30 a.m., Westlake police were called to inform them of a suspicious car in a parking lot. FitzGerald, now separated from the SUV, pulled over to “get our bearings” and to “check GPS” information to take his Irish guests to their lodgings. Responding to the suspicious car call, a Westlake police office arrived on the scene. He approached the vehicle, talked to FitzGerald and his passenger, left and wrote a two sentence report about it.

“That was it. That’s it,” FitzGerald said, adding, “It didn’t amount to even a minor traffic ticket.” In his report, the officer relayed that he received a call about a suspicious vehicle. The police officer checked it out almost immediately, FitzGerald, said. The officer reported there was “nothing to be concerned about, nothing going on.”  Questions from two reporters in particular, both from the Columbus Dispatch, were clearly on a National Enquirer jag question-athon that finally led to one asking FitzGerald if he or his female passenger were fully clothed. FitzGerald said the question didn’t deserve an answer. Delivered in real time, FitzGerald’s prophecy that some people will try to construe the non-newsworthy incident in a salacious way came true before the hour was up.

FitzGerald defended the honor and reputation of the Irish delegation, saying they don’t appreciate “their names and reputations being dragged into a pretty unwarranted and cheap political attack by Gov. Kasich’s operation.”  The first official to be elected Executive of Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s most populace county, said they were incredulous that such a non-event can assassinate people’s reputations and character.

Peter Hynes and Joanne Grehan, members of the 2012 Irish Delegation to Ohio released the following statement today:

We would like to say at the outset that we are deeply shocked and extremely saddened to learn that an effort is being made to construe an innocuous incident in October 2012 as something completely different.

The facts of the situation are actually very simple. Joanne Grehan, traveled to Cleveland in October 2012 as part of an Irish trade delegation from County Mayo. At the end of the day, Ed FitzGerald was driving Joanne back to her hotel, at the delegation’s request. After being separated from their party, Joanne and Ed stopped the car to map the actual route to the hotel. The vehicle was approached by a police patrol car which stopped, checked that all was in order and then left. Ed and Joanne then continued on to the hotel where Ed dropped her off.

We are outraged and disgusted to find our names being drawn into what is clearly a controversy fabricated with political motivation and we confirm that there is absolutely no basis for the unfounded speculation and nasty innuendo which surrounds reporting of this incident.

FitzGerald said he and his wife knew from the start that they would come under fire from Gov. Kasich’s staffers and allies, but attacks on their minor son, 17-years old, for a broken windshield was stooping to new lows. He said he’s been aware that the Republican Party has been involved in spreading attacks on him, and that an “expedition to get info on me for more than a year” has been underway.

“This is the best they came up with. This is what they got. This is what they’re doing to avoid discussing issues for working class families and middle class people in Ohio. They have left their finger prints behind in the way they tried to smear my reputation and spread this dirt,” he said Mr.

Upon learning about the incident, McDonald said he did what any good officer with 20 years experience would do, investigate. Always concerned about his and the FOP’s reputation, McDonald said he spoke with the officer who responded that evening to the call about a suspicious car. “I didn’t want to treat the allegation lightly, so I actually talked to the officer. I asked him, ‘did you see any evidence of inappropriate behavior?’ He said no. ‘We’re you treated with respect?’ He said yes. No crimes were committed, nothing inappropriate.”

Then, taking a dig at Gov. Kasich, who made headlines early on for calling a police officer in a video recording an “idiot” for giving him a traffic ticket for failing to follow proper procedures, McDonald said, “Certainly, Mr. FitzGerald didn’t call that officer an idiot for doing his job.” FitzGerald was in a car with a friend, he said Kasich isn’t talking about why Ohio’s lost 22,000 government jobs from his cuts to local government.

FitzGerald said once more information comes in on public records his campaign has made, and they have yet to receive the records they requested, he will bring it to a prosecutor if there’s enough information that warrants an investigation. “There is pretty strong evidence that they were misusing city resources in their official position in order to gain some kind of political advantage for the Kasich Administration,” he said. “This is extremely serious. We’ve consulted with an attorney, and we believe it’s a violation of Ohio law,” using public resources for private purposes.”

“For these guys to talk about my family is the cheapest shot I’ve ever seen. We’ve never talked about Kasich’s family. This garbage that these guys are trying to pull is gong to backfire on them,” he said. And when the history of this campaign is written, FitzGerald said, “Their true character, who they really are, and what they’re willing to do to stay in power was revealed on this day, because their fingerprints are all over this stuff.”

Connie Wehrkamp, who normally works as a spokesman for the Kasich Administration but who has transferred to be spokesman for the Kasich Campaign, told one reporter that the governor’s re-election team would have nothing to say on the matter.

ORP spokesman Chris Schrimpf said the party was not digging up dirt on FitzGerald’s teenagers, according to another published report. Schrimpf, who came to Ohio from Wisconsin where he worked for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, said the party’s lawyers filed a public records request for police reports at his house to try to verify FitzGerald’s claim that he had death threats and that it would be a security risk to release records documenting his comings and goings from government buildings, one published report said. 

By the end of the day, FitzGerald’s campaign sent out an email titled “Gutter Politics” that accused the RGA and the ORP of launching shameless, personal attacks at him and his family.

“I’m not letting this dirty attack distract from the real issue of this campaign: that Governor Kasich has sold Ohio out to the wealthiest and well-connected, leaving average Ohioans in the dust. That cuts to the local government fund have cost police officers and firefighters their jobs while making our communities less safe. That unaccountable, failing, for-profit charter schools are endangering our kids,” he said.

Evangelize!
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  • jr6020

    This story has a chance of blowing up on the state GOP and the Kasich campaign if Fits’ version is factual (if it’s not, he’s toast, folks). Let’s see how the major RAGS handle the story in the days ahead. Will they do some actual investigation and digging or just follow the lead of the state GOP and pile on?…we’ll see soon enough…

  • goofproof

    The GOP is a desperate, fading party. The only way they can hold power is by gerrymandering, voter suppression, and now innuendo and smear. They should remember the rumors swirling around Kasich for years that anybody growing up in Westerville will know. Do we really need politicians who can only win by digusting, perverse tactics as this attack on Fitzgerald’s family?

  • goofproof

    I’ll add my elderly, very conservative, pro-Kasich relative today mentioned how disgusted and disappointed he was with the attack on FitzGerald. He has been a strong GOP supporter. There are plenty of conservative (Irish) Catholics who are now giving these Republicans a second look. Add to that the sentiment against the Pope in the U.S. House as being “too liberal”, and you have the seeds of a backlash against Republicans by an important voting block.

  • mrgavel

    The problem with this is that all the average voter knows is that Fitzgerald was with a woman in a car early in the morning and the woman was not his wife. That’s not good when there are a lot of people outside of the Cleveland area who don’t know Fitzgerald at all. Frankly someone should start publicly asking the reporters who broke this story why they are so interested in spreading allegations of improper sexual activity that are substantiated. Working the refs never hurts!

  • mrgavel

    FItzgerald’s campaign response was clumsy, although to be fair I can’t be sure how clear headed I would be in a similar situation. Here’s what I wished they would have done: Attack the news media for spreading a rumor to help the Kasich whom both the PD and Dispatch endorsed in 2010 and whose SB 5 position they both endorsed. Make this about the news media, not about the woman. Adding the GOP would be a bonus but the real issue here is why the media is printing a story that is two years old with no evidence other than the lateness of the hour that there was any sexual impropriety taking place. .

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