Thursday, January 19, 2006

''Democrats bring ethics reform proposals to Ohio battleground''

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- National Democrats promoted their ethics reform package Wednesday in battleground Ohio, which party Chairman Howard Dean called the center of Republican corruption scandals.

Dean outlined a package of measures to bar members of Congress from accepting gifts from lobbyists, pointing to a federal investigation of GOP Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, who is accused of taking bribes from former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff has pleaded guilty to bribing members of Congress and other charges.

"The cost of corruption is real to Ohioans, and it's real to Americans, and we're going to put an end to that," said Dean, standing just a few feet away from the ceremonial Statehouse office of Gov. Bob Taft.

The Republican governor pleaded no contest in August to failing to report golf outings and other gifts he was treated to, becoming the state's first governor convicted of a crime.

The event, at which Democrats signed a petition in support of ethics reform, was the first outside Washington in support of the reform proposals.

Dean's visit gave a national stage to an argument Ohio Democrats have been making for months: voters should end 12 years of Republican domination of state government because of pervasive GOP corruption. That includes a scandal involving $300 million in investment losses at the state insurance fund for injured workers.

Democratic candidates for several statewide offices including governor are sounding similar themes as they try to win back seats in the state that has failed to elect a president just twice in more than 100 years.

Rep. Ted Strickland, an eastern Ohio Democrat running for governor, describes "a state that has lost its way" in campaign materials.

Sen. Marc Dann, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, referred to a "culture of corruption" Wednesday as he said, "People are really going to be ready for office holders in 2006 that are willing to stand up to that historic way of doing business."

Dean's appearance didn't resonate with all Democrats. State Sen. Eric Fingerhut of Cleveland, also running for governor, said he was insulted by a Washington politician coming to Ohio to talk about corruption.

"People know what's happening in the Statehouse. They don't need Howard Dean to come and tell them that," Fingerhut said.

Republicans dismissed the event as a publicity stunt and said GOP leaders have moved quickly to address problems. "The people of Ohio and all Americans would be better served if Howard Dean and the Democrat Party focused less on partisan grandstanding and more on working with Republicans to change how business is done in Washington," said Jo Ann Davidson, co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

However, Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted said Wednesday that lawmakers plan to introduce a bill soon that would respond to issues raised by the state's corruption scandal.

Husted disclosed the proposed legislation while giving no details and saying it should be something both Democrats and Republicans support. "You have some people that probably do the right thing and err on the side of caution, and some people don't," said Husted, a Dayton area Republican. "We need to be clear about what the rules are on what you're allowed to do and what the standards are for government." Husted said he would provide more information on his schedule, not Dean's.

The top House Democrat said she was pleased to hear Husted was working on a bill but said it was overdue.

"Republicans are in charge _ they don't have a time table? Shame on them," said Rep. Joyce Beatty of Columbus. "The 11 million people in Ohio need a time table."

Dean's appearance could bolster Democrats' campaign hopes by bringing national attention to state politics, but the impact depends on how long corruption charges stay in the headlines, said Paul Beck, a political analyst at Ohio State University.

He added that in an age of increasingly partisan politics, the voters likely to be influenced are few in number. "We're really only talking about a swing group of voters who will be upset by the corruption issues," Beck said. "Loyal Democrats are inclined to vote for Democrats _ loyal Republicans are heavily inclined to vote for Republicans."-from the AP story.

"A swing group of voters".........aren't they the most important ones to get? Anyway, that's what I learned in my political science classes at the University of California. Maybe they teach it differently at Ohio State.

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