Surviving Bob Taft

By Gerard Valentino

Everyone wants their political party and ideology to win acceptance with voters. Oddly enough, there is a point where total control by one party or ideology corrupts. The corruption is not the traditional kind, with bribes and backroom deals, but a more insidious and less tangible.

When a party enjoys unchallenged electoral success, the leaders start to believe in their own infallibility in dealing with party members and public policy. Such is the case with current lame duck Ohio governor Bob Taft and the Ohio GOP leadership in general.

After years of unparalleled success and utter domination of the weak and misguided Ohio Democrats, the Ohio GOP finally has a fight on their hands. Despite this, nobody embodies the blinding arrogance of unfettered power more than Bob Taft.

Not long after making it know that he expected the resignation of members of his administration who were found guilty of ethical lapses, Taft himself was forced to plead no-contest to several ethics-based misdemeanors. Despite claiming simple ignorance of the law, as several of his cabinet members claimed, Taft refused to follow his self-imposed rule and instead refused to resign.

During his term in office, more than one political deal was scuttled at the last minute because Taft simply changed his mind after all sides came to an agreement. Most notable were the negotiations surrounding Ohio’s concealed carry law. When years of debate finally led to a deal acceptable to all sides, Taft waited until the last minute and threw in one final demand - he wanted to allow the media access to the name, age and county of residence for all license holders.

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Taft, and his cohorts in the media, claimed it was a safeguard so the system could be checked and verification that criminals were not being issued licenses could take place. Despite this public pronouncement of intent, the real goal was to kill the bill with a final poison-pill provision. However, pro-gun advocates instead agreed to add this provision and backed Taft into a corner. Without another viable argument against signing the bill, he finally relented.

Taft’s spectacular failure to gain passage, despite the absence of organized opposition, of his Third Frontier Project is another example of his blind arrogance. The voters recognized the Third Frontier was simply another tax hike hidden in a referendum claiming to create programs to bring high-tech jobs to Ohio. Such a failure didn’t stop Taft; he quickly vowed to continue the fight to see the Third Frontier Project implemented.

He missed one important fact: Ohioans were sick of Taft’s tax and spend policies that were slowly destroying the state’s economy.

Undaunted, Taft vowed to continue on with the poor tax policy when he ram-rodded the fiscal nightmare that ultimately became known as the CAT tax. Such a tax is based on corporate activity, not net profit, and assures that Ohio’s cities start with a huge disadvantage when trying to attract new businesses and commercial development.

As a final act of defiance, and in a final damaging act to his Party, Taft once again stalled a bill after all sides agreed on a compromise. The offending bill is HB347, and is designed to fix many of the poor provisions Taft inserted in Ohio’s original concealed carry law. In many circumstances, the very group that lobbied Taft to have a particular provision added to the law now admits that the provision is causing more harm than good.

Taft still vows to veto the bill, despite support from the licensing authority, license holders and all but one law enforcement organization. The one group that is not onboard with the changes is the Ohio Highway Patrol, an organization controlled directly by Bob Taft.

Taft opposes HB 347 in the face of support from an overwhelming majority in both the Ohio House and Senate. Yet, with the help of Republican Senate President Bill Harris, he has fixed it so that the bill will not come up for a vote until after the election, and, perhaps, never.

Promises to move the vote on the bill until after the November election have fallen on deaf ears since Taft has made, and broken, so many promises in the past. Further, based upon past experiences, the Ohio gun owner equates “after the election” with “we are going to wreck your bill and need to deprive you of the ability to express your anger at the ballot box.” After the elections, the pro-gun and conservative voters will already have given up on the Ohio GOP.

Not that it matters to Bob Taft; he is term-limited and will go back to his privileged life after he leaves office. Ohioans, however, will be left to deal with high crime rates, high taxes, unprecedented brain drain, defective school funding, restrictive gun laws, high poverty rates and poor prospects for jobs.

The Oho GOP, once the crown jewel of Republican state parties, will be left with angry gun owners, fiscal conservatives, ethics advocates and the knowledge that Taft’s 19% approval rating is among the lowest in recorded history.

Luckily for Ohio Republicans, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a party outsider, won the gubernatorial nomination. Blackwell is a true fiscal conservative who believes in gun rights and has vowed to stamp out corruption in the state government. Further helping on the ethics front, Representative Tim Schaffer introduced the comprehensive anti-corruption ethics bill that is making its way through the legislature and will most likely become law.

Still, there is a lot for the state party to overcome in the November elections, leaving many wondering if it can survive Bob Taft.

Gerard Valentino is the Buckeye Firearms Association Central Ohio Chair, BuckeyeFirearms.org.

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