This issue opens up an entire can of worms:
The probable Republican nominee for governor said he supports efforts to give Franklin County voters a chance to reject a casino in the Arena District.
Although he did not campaign against the constitutional amendment to permit casinos in the state’s four largest cities, John Kasich expressed full-throated opposition this week to the one planned in Columbus by Penn National Gaming of Pennsylvania.
Kasich said he supports any legislative effort that would allow Franklin County voters to opt out of the casino, including a resolution by state Sen. David Goodman, R-New Albany, for a May 2010 statewide ballot amendment that would allow host counties to reject a casino through a local vote.
“I’m totally for it,” Kasich said. “I’m for anything that’s going to give us another bite of the apple. We didn’t want this (casino) here. The voters didn’t want it here, and each thing that gives us a chance to have home rule and a chance to be able to make a decision about the fact that we don’t want this thing shoved down our throat, I think is very good.”[...]
Anything we can do to change this around, I’m for,” Kasich said. “To give us a chance to say no and not disrupt our community, particularly when — just thinking about the Arena District and all the investment and all the good work with the (Blue Jackets) hockey team and Huntington Park and that. There’s so much excitement in that area. I just think we should be able to have a chance to reject this (casino).”Kasich said Issue 3 passed because “people were worried about jobs. I think that in some parts of the state they thought that this might help them. This is illustrative of the fact of grasping at straws here. So, we got a bad deal, which people really didn’t fully understand, and we don’t want it here.”
Typically, politicians don’t like to oppose issues which pass with voter approval… So why offer your first opinion on the subject AFTER the election is held? It wasn’t too long ago when Kasich was at least open to the idea of casinos.
There are two options here for why Kasich jumped into this debate now:
1) This could be John Kasich tapping into the populist movement in Columbus to oppose the casinos… a grassroots group is forming which is not remotely associated with Sandy Theis… which means it is quite legitimate. And he could be embracing the legitimate, morally conservative case to be made against gambling or is at least making the case for more local-control.
2) Franklin County GOP Chairman Doug Preisse and his lobbying firm, list Mountaineer Gaming (MTR) as one of their clients.
This is the same company that Kim Redfern lobbies for and was going to provide the slot machines to race tracks for Ted Strickland’s patchwork budget before the conservatives at LetOhioVote.org decided to put the issue before voters.
I don’t know which option is correct. However, there is no doubt that David Goodman, Rep. Cheryl Grossman, and others are opposing the casino on the behalf of MTR, as Doug reportedly made it very clear to candidates that party support depends on it. And it is probably not wise for candidates to fight The Columbus Dispatch publisher John Wolfe’s willingness to use his newspaper personal PR machine in his jihad against Dan Gilbert to keep them out of the Arena District. Gilbert already owns the Cleveland Cavs and Quicken Loans Arena, and I get the sense that Wolfe doesn’t want him taking over parts of the Arena district, such as the Blue Jackets. (He would rather have taxpayers bail out the hockey team.).
I have nothing against lobbyists, as they serve the very necessary role of helping groups of individuals and businesses petition our government. (People like to portray lobbyists as if they corrupt the political process, but I can assure you that corrupt politicians were corrupt long before any lobbyists and money showed up!)
And, there are people at Van Meter Ashbrook who I consider friends and are personally helpful to the Republican cause.
HOWEVER, with Chairman Preisse’s undeniably large role in Team Kasich, why wouldn’t John stay the hell away from this local issue? Even if Kasich’s intentions here are pure as the driven snow, perception is EVERYTHING in politics. And in this case, the perception stinks.
Ted Strickland and others may not raise the issue, as the Democrats also have much to gain financially from MTR, in the form of campaign contributions and money to the Redfern household. And I wouldn’t hold my breath to hear this potential conflict raised by Joe Hallett or others in Wolfe’s Dispatch.
And as a matter of policy, what precedent does it send when local governments can opt out of state constitutional amendments? the smoking ban? the traditional marriage amendment? paying for the Third Frontier? the new livestock board? At what point does this become absurd?
Conservatives should be skeptical of Chairman Preisse because, as we saw with how he backed county GOP efforts off the anti-Columbus income tax hike campaign, he is known for putting his clients above party and principle. It is perhaps time for Team Kasich to distance themselves from the Franklin County GOP, but maybe they are one in the same.