CONSIDERING THE current decline in property values, what would an entire congressional district be worth these days? $25 million? $509 million ? $2 million? Not even close. For John Boehner's real estate reappraisal team, try a skimpy $210,000. That's what the Timken Company has donated to Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, of the 16th Congressional District (Canton area).
According to media reports, Boehner's aides played a leading role to redraw the district from the earlier proposed map in order to include the Timken Company in the new boundaries. The Plain Dealer reported:
"Tom Whatman, executive director for Team Boehner, the Republican speaker's political team, was making key recommendations on how to configure Ohio's new congressional districts out of public view". His mission, of course, was to create the friendliest possible map for Republicans such as Renacci.
Emails recovered by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, which include the League of Women Voters and a coalition of progressive groups , revealed that the political mapmakers met secretly in a Columbus Hotel to lay out the new maps. The emails contradicted Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder's assurance that the entire process was transparent. And, as we have been told, Batchelder never lies. (But the people who swear to that do lie.)
The smoking gun for this back-room deal came from a Whatman email, in which he thanks the locals for agreeing to the last-minute change in the district's boundaries that now has Timken back in Renacci's district. "Very important to someone very important to us all," he says.
Nothing could be more transparent than those words.
Renacci, former Wadsworth mayor and adminstrator of a group of nursing homes, faces Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton in the new district. A wealthy (millions) conservative, he has become a corporate darling as an enemy of government regulations. With the big investors and the new district map on Renacci's side, Sutton, who has experienced trench warfare in the past, will face another tough race. But I have a feeling that he will, too.