Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Petro, the opportunist

Is Ohio's Attorney General limited to being "chief counsel" for Ohio's state agencies, or can the AG take independent action? Recent events show Jim Petro is an opportunist who wants to have it both ways.

We usually don't like to use the term "opportunist" lightly. It's too easy to throw around in the political arena where every politician - even the best - sometimes face pragmatic decisions about his or her "principles."

But, it's been a long time since we've seen such an Ohio politician of Petro's stature try to weasely bullshit the public and reporters about his contradictory stance on a major principle in two high profile - and connected - stories.

First, we'll start with BWC. Over the weekend, we had the revelation that the SEC had practically begged Petro as early as 2002 to investigate improprieties at bureau. Petro cobble together this explanation for failing to act at the SEC's behest:
"We are simply lawyers that represent these agencies," he said, adding that he lacked the authority to launch an independent investigation.
Now, compare that to how Petro has position himself in regard to Ohio First Inc.'s challenge to how the RON petitions were gathered.
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro has sided with the group trying to keep four election-reform constitutional amendments off the Ohio ballot . . .
In other words, when it came to the RON issue, Petro suddenly found enough independence to side with Ohio First Inc and abandon his responsibilities to represent the Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (who approved the RON coalition's petition gathering method).

Now, Petro first tried to say that the AG's office would represent "both sides." This didn't pass the laugh test for one hour. This arrangement so discomforted the first outside attorney, William Papmon, that he quickly bailed out:
Mr. Papmon resigned [Aug. 24], citing a conflict of interest because of Mr. Petro's opposing stance.
We know nothing about Papmon's background, but over the weekend, Larry James - a very well-connected lawyer - agreed to represent the SOS with the AG's office picking up the tab.

We believe that the interests of the RON coalition will be strongly defended. RON attorney Don McTigue is outstanding. James is a pal of Blackwell's and has a lot of juice to throw around the courthouse and Capital Square. Together, they will leave no stone unturned.

Or should we say, no clause of the Ohio Constitution will be unturned. In particular, Articles 2 (see 2.01C) and 16 seem to pretty clearly side with the RON coalition. If the Ohio Constitution is a self-contained entity, it trumps any subsequent legislative action.

We're offering 10-1 odds that Petro will be the loser (in more ways than one) when the Supreme Court decides this case. Any takers?


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