Sunday, February 27, 2011

Arch-enemies vie for Kasich's ear(s)

GOV. KASICH'S IMMINENT appointment of Jim Petro as the new chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents will set up an interesting clash between two political enemies - Petro and Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff. How could that be, you may fairly ask, when both guys handsomely raised money for Kasich in the past election? First, a little history:

The chancellor is a cabinet member who is in the best position to influence the governor on higher educational policy - the biggest gorilla in the room on a matter dear to the heart of state universities: funding. The board was created by the legislature in 1963 at the urging of the late Gov. Rhodes, who was never enthralled by the heavy lifting of details.

The governor, a college dropout himself, wanted to unburden himself of the ebb and flow of higher-education problems and the jostling of educators who would take up his time with things that weren't high on his list of priorities if they extended beyond bricks and mortar. Former Gov. Strickland increased the chancellor's policy-making influence by adding him to his cabinet.

With Petro - former state auditor, former attorney general and unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor - in a sensitive campus role, Kasich will reward two veteran politicians whose paths could angrily cross inasmuch as Arshinkoff has just been handed the job of University of Akron lobbyist by a Columbus lobbying firm. Trust me: Coincidence had nothing to do with it.

About the Petro-Arshinkoff chasm: The Summit chairman had asked then- State Auditor Petro to send his people up to Akron to examine the books of then-County Auditor Jim MCarthy, a Democrat who was in a race with Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart, a Republican, for Summit County executive. (Bear with me: I know it can be confusing. But this was in 2000. )

A bad report on McCarthy, of course, would be a windfall for Robart, Arshinkoff's beneficiary in all of this. It didn't happen. Instead, Petro's auditors gave McCarthy a clean report. Arshinkoff was so outraged that there was nothing to be gained from the audit that he promptly excised Petro from the list of candidates to endorse in the 2006 Republican primary, with his usual rip-and-roar attacks on Petro, adding that he would prefer a Democrat over the attorney general. (I told you this could get complicated!) But being a good party soldier, he said he would endorse Republican Betty Montgomery for governor, and if ill-health forced her out of the race, he would step up to the plate with Ken Blackwell. Bad move. Bad, bad move.

Blackwell was demolished by Democrat Strickland. Oh, did I remember to mention that six years earlier, McCarthy also won in a landslide over Robart?

Forgot to report: Petro had raised money for Kasich as a lawyer in Columbus with Roetzel and Andress, the Akron firm that long served as Arshinkoff's pinata around town. For the rest of the story, you might want pick up a copy of War and Peace.


Mencken said...

A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the tea partier, and says, ‘Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.’

Anonymous said...

So, won't the UA Trustees ask their Columbus lobbying firm to reconsider the appointment of Arshinkoff? Or have Alex and Jim settled their differences?