Monday, April 04, 2005

 

Miller versus Petro: Double standard at the Statehouse?

We know - it's hard to imagine that Republican politicians in Columbus would be hypocritical, but this seems to us to be pretty blatant

The situations we are referring to are how differently the cases of State Senator Ray Miller and Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro are being handled.

Miller, in brief, has admitted that an aide did work for Reclaim Our Democracy which the Dispatch described as "a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to registering single black women who head households." Miller has reportedly paid nearly $1,000 to reimburse the state coffers for the 40 hours the aide worked and the staffer in question has resigned. Nevertheless, Republicans on a legislative ethics panel have referred the matter to a prosecutor for a theft-in-office charge.

Petro, on the other hand, seems to be able to openly use staff and other state resources for his campaign to be governor. For example, at a speech in November at the Columbus Metropolitan Club Petro introduced a plan to reduce the number of state government agencies and sack one-third of state workers. During the presentation, we understand that Petro said something to the effect that he would be running for governor and would have more announcements coming in the next few months related to his "vision" of the state. Kim Norris, Petro's Chief of Communications and also a state employee, accompanied Petro to the presentation and distributed information about the plan. Simultaneously, information on his plan went up on the AG's website (also paid for by taxpayers). He did a similar presentation in March on restructuring Ohio public universities, again with Norris's assistance and materials apparently prepared in the AG's office, and again a posting on the AG's website.

Now, we can imagine Petro defending himself, saying at the time that he had not officially announced his candidacy for governor. That supposedly didn't occur until March 22. That's seems to be a fairly semantical issue since Matt Cox was apparently already calling himself Petro's campaign director last September. But even if that somehow provides a legal loophole, can someone explain to us why these announcements are still posted on the AG's website? Norris seems to be still on the state payroll.

So, our point is this: how is it possible for Miller to be facing criminal charges for his transgressions, but Petro gets to use AG staff and resources to promote items that are purely political. We suspect the web postings are at least illegal, and maybe some enterprising reporter should ask if all this doesn't at least violate the spirit of Ohio's ethics rules and laws.

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