Clearly, the unlikely power play that violates Republican tradition of never publicly slamming a member of your own party (while blistering each other sotto voce) is an open sore nowadays. A well- connected state Republican conceded on the phone with me the other day: "It's serious. It won't go away soon." Is it ego? I asked. "Exactly," he said, suggesting there were a number of moving parts. It's understandable only if you bring yourself to concede that with Kasich, the top tier of the pecking order is occupied by lobbyists, cronies and old friends.
That's the short version of the party's in-house hostilities that are worrying some of the faithful's bystanders. It will bleed into a busy political year with a presidential election at stake. Indeed, as the Columbus Dispatch's Joe Hallett keenly reported a few days ago, the State GOP's second-in-command has scorched the Kasich forces for splitting the party by openly trying to unseat DeWine. "It's almost become: we have met the enemy, and it is us," said Kay Ayres, state GOP vice chairwoman. Her message to the governor: Lay off this nonsense.
Nice try, but it won't be enough to satisfy the Kasich machine that is driven by lobbyists who are doing quite well with Kasich's aid, thank you. The governor has been joined by his buddy and torpedo, House Speaker Bill Batchelder to wield the axe. Batchelder has accused DeWine of working against the governor's best interests.
Meantime, no less than Kasich claque Alex Arshinkoff, the Summit County GOP chairman, took a strong stand for Batchelder's credentials in the Plain Dealer, offering a brief character sketch of Batchelder. Declaring Batchelder to be a great party leader ( by the way, Arshinkoff never fails to describe his political pals as great) said: "I've never known him to lie." But I digress.
The Columbus political blog Plunderbund offered some insight into the quarrel: "Kasich came into power with a plan: privatize everything in the state and enrich as many of his friends as possible in the process."
That point is hardly debatable. There have been numerous reports the past year of Kasich handing off lucrative contracts through well connected lobbyists to the sort of recipients who would be expected to reciprocate. That's how the governor has done business and continues to do so. On the other hand, DeWine is said to believe that too often state policy is being carried out by the governor's friends.
Lobbyists? Friends? Cronies? Here's one example cited by Plunderbund. Don Thibaut, who was Kasich's chief-0f-staff for two decades when Kasich was in Congress, now operates a lobbying firm, Credo Company with a boast on his "About Us" page "highlighting his very personal and long-term relationship with John Kasich. " So should we be surprised that when the state sold off a prison to a private buyer, the contract went to a Thibaut client?
God knows how much of this is going on. Yet wasn't it John Kasich, upon entering the governor's office, who warned lobbyists that he would not put up with them in the bright new era of progressive governing? Sure he did. And like Batchelder, he never lies.