A handful of Ohio politicians have given away campaign contributions from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And, one Ohio congressman has been repeatedly linked with Abramoff.
Whether the scandal will have a lasting effect on Ohio Politics depends on who you talk to. Top Democrat in the Ohio House of Representatives and Democratic Party head, Chris Redfern,thinks that Ohio Republicans such as Bob Ney, Deborah Pryce, Pat Tiberi, Mike DeWine,and George Voinovich were right to jettison the Abramoff cash. But, he says giving it to charity is misguided.
As its Communication's Director, John McClelland speaks for the Ohio Republican Party. Still, he was reluctant to weigh in on G-O-P politicians who shed Abramoff's donations. McClelland believes each office-holder made a personal decision. "They could have given money back for any number of reasons. Maybe they just felt that because the individual is now indicted its not proper to keep those funds. I don't know if that necessarily means that there's any connection beyond that." Says McClelland.
But Democart Redfern does make a connection. He says divestiture of lobbiest's money by members of Ohio's congressional delegation and a state investment investment scandal at the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation give Democrats some political fodder for 2006. "Each and every one of these candidates, or elected officials rather who accepted money from Jack Abramoff, ill-gotten money from Jack Abramoff, shouldn't return the money to some charity that they're hand-picking They should send the money to the challengers they defeated. It was with these special interest dollars that good democrats were defeated." Says Redfern.
Ohio State Political Scientist Paul Beck concedes its difficult to determine how much attention voters pay to political scandals. He says history points to a number of occasions where voters punish scandal-tinged politicians by voting them out of office. He cautions, though, that voters could view both Republicans and Democrats through the same "dirty lens" and shun the lot. Voters in November will elect a U-S Senator, a congressional delegation, a Governor, and four candidates for other statewide elective offices.