Friday, May 27, 2011

When Brennan calls, the Ohio GOP listens

LET ME BEGIN by saying that William G. Batchelder has lied to us.

If I'm wrong, let him deny it.

As the Columbus Dispatch has reported, the Republican speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives has now admitted that he has known all along who wedged in a couple of amendments to the House-passed state budget that are more than friendly to charter school titan David Brennan of Akron. Until that worse-kept secret was confirmed by Batchelder himself, the veteran Medina politician and blueblood conservative had insisted that he had no idea whose fingerprints were on the amendments. And whose fingerprints were they? No less than Batchelder himself admitted they were inserted by the Republicans at Brennan's request. As if we didn't already know!

Batchelder has never impressed me over the years as an operative who left anything to chance. That was truer than ever as he assumed the leadership of the House Republican caucus in Columbus. So if he didn't know, he wasn't doing his job. If he did know, he must have assumed the questions would vanish. Connect the dots: He was lying, and for a pol of his decades of experience, he wasn't very good at it .

The Brennan amendments, clearly bought and paid for, are preposterous: a for-profit charter schools outfit like Brennan's White Hat Management has received $230 million in taxpayer money from the state. Yet his agents insist that because public money was now in the hands of a private company, White Hat didn't have to account for how the money was spent. Make me laugh.

There's more: White Hat would keep the desks and other school equipment that you and I have paid for if the charter school fails. (Can any Republican lawmaker with an iota of honesty defend such reprehensible baseness with a straight face?) Inasmuch as the Republican House passed the entire bill and sent it to the Senate, you need not guess about the dismal ethics of the happy-go-lucky GOP lawmakers who are blithely on the dole. Keep in mind that Brennan is known as the second largest contributor (millions) to the Republicans over the years of his ascendancy as Daddy Warbucks.

Meantime, White Hat is being sued by the boards of some charter schools to air out where the public money has been secreted. However, that trial was oddly put on hold for 60 days by a Columbus judge who asked that the two sides try to work out a new contract.

Among those shocked by the court's delay was Sen. Tom Sawyer, the Akron Democrat on the Republican-dominated Ohio Senate Finance Committee. He said he was "amazed" the court would force a delay while the legislation is being considered and suggested that Brennan has turned his attention to the Senate to sustain his interests. Sawyer predicted a"recrafted substitute" would be drawn in the Senate. Still, the Republicans control that body, too, and there are fewer mouths to feed.

We are witnessing a shameless gouging of the public interest in the halls of the General Assmbly and if it ends up that way it is a sign that the GOP class down there has sold whatever soul it still has left.

The free enterprise system stretches across a wide spectrum. At the high end are a couple of kids with a lemonade stand in their front yard. At the lowest end is how Batchelder and friends are doing business these days and the public be damned.

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