COLUMBUS, Ohio, December 31, 2013— The Ohio Liberty Coalition (OLC) sent an email today to raise money for a few hand-picked Ohio state representatives, one state senator, and one candidate for state representative. However, the email contains false claims being used to encourage readers to turn against the Ohio Republican Party, and make donations to these few.
The email says, in part:
“On this last day of 2013, we urge our liberty minded supporters to take advantage of an Ohio tax credit that allows you to make a contribution of up to $50 (or $100 per couple) to certain political candidates and claim it as a credit on your income tax. By doing so, you can provide valuable financial resources to Ohio Assembly members who have been steadfast in their support of conservatives issues.”
The email then lists the names and photos of state representatives Matt Lynch, Ron Young, Kristina Roegner, Ron Hood and John Becker, and state senator Kris Jordan. All of these individuals have wide support in their district from Republicans, and most in their party would argue that support of these individuals, among others, should be encouraged.
However, the email also lists Nino Vitale, an Urbana, Ohio resident who is a Republican candidate for state representative. The email misleads readers claiming that he is a current member of the “Ohio Assembly,” when indeed, he is not.
The email continues beneath the pictures of the names listed above, citing that “these leaders have voted against the severance tax increase” and “voted for the heartbeat bill,” among other claims that these individuals are against medicaid expansion, are pro-gun and opposed the state budget. The OLC again claims that a candidate for office, Vitale, has actually cast votes in the Ohio House of Representatives, a statement which is obviously entirely false.
It is important to note that the state budget included individual tax cuts, a fifty percent business tax cut, pro-life legislation, and other conservative reforms. Progressive organizations have sued in an attempt to overturn the state budget. Yet, the OLC encouraged votes against the budget, even by those representatives and senators whose budget amendments were accepted. Elected officials whose amendments were inserted into the budget were told to vote against it, as if that somehow aids future efforts for conservative-based amendments to be included in legislation.
The Washington Times contacted Vitale, asking whether he has communicated with the OLC to request that they cease from stating he is a current state representative or that he has voted in a certain manner. He replied in a Facebook message, “I have contacted [the OLC] about this matter … I have no control over what other folks say about me and other people.” When asked whether he would be keeping the donations identified as coming through the OLC or as a result of the OLC’s fundraising efforts, Vitale did not respond.
Furthermore, the email claims, in bold font within the email, that “the Ohio Republican Party is looking to primary these individuals in 2014 and replace them with politicians who will do the party’s bidding.”
In a text exchange with The Washington Times today, the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, Matthew Borges, was asked whether the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) is planning to primary these individuals, especially given that the ORP’s responsibility is to re-elect Republicans within the state. Borges replied, “No. We aren’t involved.” Reiterating, he wrote, there is “no truth to it.”
The OLC has a pattern of attempting to pin conservatives against the ORP in the state of Ohio. In fact, one of the former leaders of the OLC, Tom Zawistowski, ran against Borges for the chairmanship position when the ORP Central Committee elected a new chairman in the spring of 2013. When Zawistowski lost, he claimed that it was a signal that the ORP wasn’t interested in listening to conservatives or those aligned with the tea party.
To the contrary, many of the Republican elected officials in statewide office in Ohio, the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate are conservative, have been involved in tea party groups and rallies, and have followed these principles in office. It is the responsibility of the ORP, the Ohio House Republican caucus (OHRC) and the Ohio Senate Republican caucus (OSRC) to re-elect these individuals. And, that is what they work to do. The ORP, the OHRC and the OSRC do not primary current elected officials who are properly fulfilling their duties.
There are many Republicans in the Ohio House who are conservative. Nearly 40 of them signed on to a protest letter demonstrating their disagreement with Republican Gov. John Kasich’s expanding Medicaid through the controlling board, as the Columbus Dispatch reported Oct. 17. In addition, the Columbus Dispatch created a tier of what it called the “most archconservative” in the Ohio House of Representatives in a Sep. 15 story, stating that Representatives Adams, Becker, Blair, Boose, Brenner*, Hood, Lynch, Maag, Rethereford, Roegner, Thompson and Young were in this first group. Interestingly, the OLC did not include all of these representatives in its email, and not even all of the ones up for re-election in 2014. Although, it may be better to be left out of an email in which false claims are being made by a third party to raise money for your campaign.
The mission of the OLC to further conservative principles in the state of Ohio is a noble one. However, by using a liberal tactic — projecting one’s own actions on to others — the OLC is doing exactly what it says it does not like by making false statements and misleading its readers. If the ORP is so much against conservatives in office, the OLC should be able to make these claims without crafting statements that are blatantly false. If anything, the OLC’s actions demonstrate that the division is in fact coming from the right. It is the tea party leaders who have threatened to leave the ORP, while many of the Republican elected officials supported by the ORP are conservatives themselves. If the OLC abandons the ORP, they are in fact leaving elected officials who agree with them high and dry.
The divisions between the various factions within the Republican party in Ohio, and nationwide, will be the downfall of the conservative movement. Conservatives, libertarians and tea party members alike need a vehicle to run for office, get elected and impact policy. The ones who have realized that the Republican party is that vehicle for them, and have attempted to work within the Republican party, have been successful when all else is equal. Working to destroy the vehicle that allows all right-of-center activists, candidates and elected officials to move our states and nation in the appropriate direction is the equivalent of metaphorically shooting yourself in the foot.
Making false claims to raise money, especially when one of those claims could further divide conservatives and Republicans, is beyond reproach.
The OLC and similar organizations throughout the nation would be wise to work with, and within, the vehicle that promotes the causes, beliefs and principles of those on the right. Otherwise, all on the right will be without any viable mechanism to do so. This has been done in county parties in Ohio and throughout the country, and successfully, where conservatives have been able to work together to gain control of the county central committee.
Unfortunately, one of the ongoing problems we see with conservatives is that, unlike with Democratic candidates, they do not circle the wagons around one candidate. This leads to splintering within a sub-group of the Republican party, and common sense would dictate that a sub-group of a sub-group cannot be successful.
When conservative candidates for school board, city council, township trustee and other small, local races face opposition from the left, personal attacks, and tough elections or re-elections, conservative groups and the Republican party both are frequently no where to be found. While this is not the case everywhere in the country, in places where these candidates are abandoned, there is a lack of a deep bench rising through the ranks that has loyalty for the GOP or right-of-center groups.
In the 2014 elections, some conservatives will undoubtedly stay home, an act which itself goes against the founding principles of this nation that constitutionalists hold dear. Showing up to vote is one of the fundamental duties of a citizen. If you fail to vote, you should at least have enough of a conscience to not complain when you’re not supportive of the government you were given. As George Jean Nathan said, “bad officials are the ones elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
Other conservatives will vote for third party candidates, knowing full-well that they have no chance of winning, and often hurting the Republican candidate in the race. These individuals have bailed from the viable vehicle, and instead have mounted a skateboard that cannot keep up with or beat the vehicle that is the GOP. Unless we have a true, multi-party system with various parties on both sides of the political equation, third party candidates on the right will merely mean that Democrats continue to become more progressive, and more progressives will continue to win.
Groups like the Ohio Liberty Coalition cannot expect to be taken seriously by the Ohio Republican Party when they cannot even tell the truth in their own emails. Unification is vital for success, and efforts must come from all involved. Conservative groups who blatantly share false statements, especially ones directly against the GOP that are quite easy to disprove, are only contributing to further division and more progressive victories.
*Disclosure: Sara Marie Brenner is the wife of Ohio State Representative Andrew Brenner.
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