|
|
The Suburbanite
  • Boehner's team had role in creating Timken 'peninsula'

  • The political team of House Speaker John Boehner asked that the Timken Company headquarters be placed in the  new 16th congressional district of Congressman Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, creating a peculiar uninhabited “peninsula” that went into Canton, miles from the original 16th congressional district line, according to a public advocacy group.

    • email print
  • A top political aide to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, requested that the Timken Co. headquarters be added to congressman Jim Renacci’s new 16th congressional district the night before the new congressional redistricting map was unveiled in September, according to documents released Monday by a public advocacy group.
    The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting said it obtained emails under the state’s public records law from the secretaries of the Ohio Apportionment Board, Heather Mann and Ray DiRossi.
    The group says the records show that Mann and DiRossi worked closely on drafting new congressional districts for the 2012 elections with Tom Whatman, the executive director of Boehner’s political group, Team Boehner, and Adam Kincaid, the redistricting director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. The Ohio General Assembly, now controlled by Republicans,  approves new congressional districts at least once every 10 years to reflect population shifts.
    Jim Slagle, manager for Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, said the documents show that Republicans initially considered placing the home of U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township, in the same district as U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights. But sometime around Sept. 2, they decided to place her home in the new 16th District with Renacci, R-Wadsworth. Sutton, whose current district was eliminated, announced last week that she would run against Renacci to represent the 16th.
    EMAILS
    At 9:28 p.m. Sept. 12, Whatman sent a message to DiRossi and Kincaid, according to emails released by the Accountable Redistricting group.
    “Guys: really really sorry to ask but can we do a small carve out down 77 in Canton and put Timken hq in the 16th. I should have thought about this earlier,” Whatman wrote.
    Kincaid replied, “Yeah, sure, no problem.”
    “Thanks guys,” Whatman wrote. “Very important to someone important to us all. I relly should have thought of this.”
    Within 80 minutes, Kincaid sent a new map file to Whatman and DiRossi. It included an uninhabited portion of Canton and Canton Township resembling the shape of a peninsula that included two Timken plants and some Timken offices being attached to Renacci’s new 16th Congressional District, which would also include Timken’s Faircrest plant in Perry Township. Before the change, many of the Timken facilities would have been in the new 7th Congressional District of U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, which includes most of Stark County.
    Shortly after 9 a.m. Sept. 13, State Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, the chairman of the Ohio House State Government and Elections Committee, introduced the congressional redistricting bill with the hastily drawn “Timken peninsula.”
    Huffman, in an interview a couple of weeks later, said he didn’t recall or know anything about the “peninsula,” or about the Timken plants being placed in the 16th District.
    Page 2 of 4 - RESPONSES
    Messages were left Monday seeking comment from Whatman and Huffman.
    Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Team Boehner, issued a statement that said, “The Timken Corporation is a major regional employer. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there was interest in trying to address their concerns.”
    Fritz said in a subsequent e-mail that Ohio House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina “was clear at the outset of this process that he was interested in Speaker Boehner’s input - as well as the input of a number of other key stakeholders, Democrat and Republican. It shouldn’t come as a surprise now to see our staff was involved in an advisory role.”
    He did not provide more details on why Whatman requested that the Timken offices be placed in the 16th District.
    Timken Co. spokeswoman Lorrie Crum said she didn’t know what concerns Fritz was referring to and that Timken executives are “thoroughly frustrated” that company facilities in Stark County are in two different districts.
    She said no Timken executives or board members were consulted about congressional boundary decisions and the company had expected the 16th District would include all of Stark County.
    “We did not know in advance that the district would be carved up as proposed,” she said. “We absolutely did not have any input when they were drawing this up.”
    The boundary line for the 16th District goes down Dueber Avenue SW, and Crum pointed out that three of Timken’s larger offices are east of Dueber in the 7th District.
    The NRCC confirmed that Kincaid was providing information to Boehner’s office, but contrary to a prior report, it said he was not assisting Mann and DiRossi in drafting the congressional map.
    “We provide information and resources at the request of members (Republican congressmen) in the redistricting process,” said NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek, declining to provide more details on Kincaid’s involvement.
    A message was also left for DiRossi and Mann could not be immediately reached through Batchelder’s office, where she works as deputy legal counsel.
    In November, Fritz issued a statement saying Boehner “has no official role in the redistricting process.”
    Ohio House Republican spokesman Mike Dittoe reiterated that the Timken plants were included in the 16th District because it had traditionally been in that district and Renacci was a member of the Congressional Steel Caucus.
    Dittoe said Monday that Whatman and Boehner were among the many people including Democrats who were consulted for their input on the map. And because there were numerous changes to the map, Huffman may not have recalled the alteration involving the Timken plants.
     After referring all questions about the matter to the Ohio General Assembly in November, Renacci’s spokesman Shawn Ryan said in an e-mail Monday that:
    Page 3 of 4 -  “Jim Renacci had no say over how the new Congressional district lines were drawn. He also made no requests. Had Rep. Renacci (wielded) any control over the process the new 16th District would have included all of Stark County, and he would not have been drawn into a district with another sitting Member of Congress.”
    Last month, the Repository reported that Timken executives, Timken family members and the Timken Co. Good Government Fund had given Renacci’s congressional campaigns at least $124,400 since 2009.
    ABOUT MONEY?
    While Slagle doesn’t have proof, he’s convinced that the contributions were the reason for the last-minute change despite Dittoe’s statement that “campaign contributions do not dictate where congressional lines are drawn.”
    “How can it be any other explanation?” asked Slagle. “I think that’s outrageous that you’re manipulating districts to enhance political contributions. I also think it’s outrageous just by making a request from Speaker Boehner, changes made. No questions asked.  ... I don’t know if even the sponsor of the bill (Huffman) knows the change was made.”
    Slagle’s group also said the records it obtained show that Republicans used a downtown Columbus hotel room as a “secret redistricting office,” which they referred to as “the Bunker” or “off site” at a cost of more than $9,600 to taxpayers.
    Dittoe, who pointed out that Slagle is a Democrat, said all the legislative offices were occupied and Mann and DiRossi needed working space that was open after hours.
    The group also said that Republican members of the Legislative Task Force on Redistricting paid a total of $210,000 in public money to Mann and DiRossi under consulting agreements with Mann’s legal entity Policy Widgets, LLC and DiRossi’s company Capital Advantage, LLC.
    Dittoe said Mann, to work on redistricting, had to take a leave from her job as deputy legal counsel position for the Ohio House Republicans and work as a consultant to avoid any ethics issues.
    According to a congressional redistricting timeline from the Apportionment Board obtained by Slagle’s organization, the plan was for Mann and DiRossi to complete the new congressional map by Aug. 19. And then rather than release it to the public, they would “hold it ‘in the can’” until the legislature reconvened on Sept. 13 or 14. Dittoe said he did not know the reason for the term “hold it ‘in the can.’”
     In an email dated Sept. 11, Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond told Whatman and DiRossi that, “I am still committed to ending up with a map that Speaker Boehner fully supports,” even if two top Senate Republicans didn’t back it.
    According to an earlier version of the map obtained by the group, Stark County would still have been divided into three districts. But, unlike the final version, the 16th District apparently would not have included any of Perry Township and the “Timken peninsula.”
    Page 4 of 4 - One document includes a chart created by Republicans showing how many voters in the new proposed districts had supported Republican candidates since 2004. For the new 7th and 16th Districts, which include Stark County, the percentages exceeded 50 percent except one race in 2006.
    The Ohio General Assembly approved the map of new congressional districts for the 2012 elections on Sept. 21. The only two legislators from Stark County who voted for it were State Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Marlboro Township, and State Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton.
    The Ohio Democratic Party is collecting petition signatures, hoping to collect enough to block the map from taking effect and place it on the November 2012 ballot.