Sunday, January 16, 2005

Now a Gubernatorial Candidate, Blackwell Caught Requesting Illegal Contributions

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell sent a fundraising letter for his 2006 gubernatorial campaign that was accompanied by a request for illegal contributions.

A pledge card with the letter from Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who co-chaired the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in Ohio, said "corporate & personal checks are welcome." Corporate donations are illegal in Ohio.

Blackwell called it an oversight. His campaign's fundraising coordinator, Jeff Ledbetter, told the Columbus Dispatch that no corporate donations had been received in response to the letter.

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Depending on your political perspective, the question is pretty simple:

Innocent oversight, or mistake-prone?

Blackwell, you may recall, was accused of mishandling the recent presidential election. Claims were made to "election irregularities" in various districts. Allegations were made that the bulk of these "election problems" occurred in Democratic-leaning districts, from long lines to broken election machines to mishandling of provisional ballots.

The question posed by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who prepared a report on "election problems" in Ohio, was also pretty clear:

Innocent oversights, or transparent partisan political motivations?

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Blackwell's letter also praises Republicans for helping deliver Ohio to President Bush. On the one hand, that makes sense, since Blackwell is a Republican and was chair of the Bush-Cheney re-election effort in his state.

On the other hand, it raises the question, again, of whether the person responsible for overseeing the counting of ballots and certification of the results in a state should be independent of a particular candidate's re-election effort. A similar question was raised in 2000 in Florida, where Secretary of State Katherine Harris was a co-chair of the Bush-Cheney election effort, while also being responsible for overseeing the counting of ballots and certification of the vote.

As a Republican election official, Blackwell said he is permitted to campaign for Bush and that Ohio's election system has checks and balances to ensure fair elections. Protesters say that no such checks and balances exists, citing Blackwell's ability to delay a legal recount process and then, allegedly, direct district officials to not follow the proper recount procedure.

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So a letter is sent out, and maybe it's just an innocent mistake. Ledbetter blames the printer, and since no media plan to interview said printer, this story will probably fade quickly from the news.

And short of an independent media investigation, voters will probably never know for sure which of the jumble of allegations were true, and which were unfounded. Blackwell said he has no intention of answering Conyers' questions. Bush will be inaugurated in a few days, and like the inappropriate fund-raising letter, the Ohio story may too, fade into memory.

And if so, voters will never know the answer to this question:

Did Blackwell properly do his job, thus deserving a shot at being the Buckeye State's next governor, or did he "deliver" the state for Bush and Cheney, voters be damned?

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