On Wednesday, Attorney General DeWine made news by declaring Ohio’s laws on fracking to be inadequate. Specifically, DeWine called for stiffer penalties for spills and other violations, mandatory public disclosure of all chemicals used in the fracking process and statutory authority for his office to act on behalf of landowners who are cheated by drillers. What is perhaps even more newsworthy is that yesterday, Governor Kasich went on the record agreeing with the Attorney General—and with Innovation Ohio—that fracking chemicals should be disclosed to the public. From Thursday’s Gongwer report (subscription required):
Addressing one concern raised by the AG, Gov. Kasich said there is “no reason to keep secret what the fracking fluid is.” He added that the administration is working with stakeholders such as the Natural Resources Defense Council to make sure protections are in place.Given what now appears to be widespread agreement that fracking chemicals should not be kept secret, we have to ask, why hasn’t the administration begun publishing the chemicals used at each well site at the time they are used? According to laws already on the books, drillers are required to disclose this information to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The Department, could, without further regulatory authority or rulemaking, simply include that information on its online database of oil and gas wells. While we applaud the Governor’s strong statement on behalf of public disclosure, we are confused why action has not yet been taken. New wells are permitted and drilled on an almost daily basis, according to statistics released by ODNR. With existing statutory authority to gather the information and no laws requiring the information be kept secret, the Governor should order ODNR to make the information public immediately.
Two primary elections, imposing millions in extra costs on taxpayers, plus the confusion of preparing for a June primary even as county boards of election are cleaning up the details of the March primary? Not to mention subjecting the public to two rounds of political ads and robocalls? That’s voter abuse. The General Assembly should spare taxpayers and voters such nonsense. Lawmakers should agree on a reasonable map, then do away with the two-primary plan.The bill contained no direct appropriation to reimburse local governments for holding a second primary, merely intent language to do so. With the state budget already strained, it is unclear where the additional money would come from. That Ohio Republicans do not embarrass easily – even in the face of blistering editorials from the Toledo Blade, Youngstown Vindicator, and Cleveland Plain Dealer and the aforementioned bastion of conservative thought, the Columbus Dispatch – is hardly a revelation. What’s curious, however, is the deafening silence coming from organizations like COAST and the Tea Party which never tire of telling us how much they hate “government waste.” Especially since there’s such an easy, one-word way out of this mess: compromise. Of course, to the Tea Party there’s only one thing worse than government waste. And that’s political compromise.
For Immediate Release: July 13, 2011 Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833
INNOVATION OHIO: IS MOELIS IN BED WITH PENN NATIONAL?Columbus—Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, said today that it has uncovered a “potentially troubling linkage” between Penn National Gaming and Moelis & Company, the New York-based consulting firm that earned a reported $13 million to help Gov. John Kasich strike a deal with Ohio’s casino and race track owners. Innovation Ohio’s discovery comes on the heels of a July 9 column by Brent Larkin of the Cleveland Plain Dealer who called Moelis’ $13 million fee “astonishing”, “preposterous” and “an unprecedented gift” which is “deserving of more scrutiny.” . Innovation Ohio said that in 2009-10, Moelis had a consulting contract with Fontainebleau Las Vegas, LLC to help that firm sell an uncompleted and bankrupt hotel and casino project. The contract, which paid Moelis at least $750,000 in consulting fees, contained “a curious provision—Section 3 (A) (ii)—specifying that if Penn National bought the Fontainebleau property, Moelis would receive an additional fee totaling 3% of the transaction value. If anyone other than Penn National bought the property, Moelis’ would receive 1% of the transaction value. Either payment would be in addition to Moelis’ consulting fee.” Read the contract here. In addition, Innovation Ohio said “it is our understanding that the Kasich administration has either stonewalled or rejected outright public records requests for information relating to the administration’s decision to retain the Moelis firm for Ohio’s own negotiations with Penn National and Rock Ventures.” Said Innovation Ohio Communications Director Dale Butland: “Since Ohio taxpayers are giving Moelis $13 million, they deserve some answers. What, exactly, is Moelis’ past and current relationship with Penn National? Why was Penn National singled out in Moelis’ contract with Fontainebleau Las Vegas? Why would Moelis receive a bonus of 3% of the transaction value if Penn National purchased the Fontainebleau property? Or 1% of the purchase price if Penn National didn’t buy it? Why would Fontainebleau—or Moelis—care about Penn National’s involvement? Since Penn National was one of the gaming firms with whom Gov. Kasich would be negotiating, did Moelis ever disclose its previous and/or current relationship with Penn National prior to being retained by the state? If so, why didn’t the Kasich administration publicly disclose that information? If not, why not? There may well be satisfactory answers to all of these questions. But since Ohio is paying Moelis $13 million for consulting efforts characterized by the Plain Dealer’s Mr. Larkin as “work that a bright, well-prepared fifth-grader could have performed as a homework assignment”, it is entirely reasonable to insist that answers be forthcoming.”
INNOVATION OHIO REPLIES TO WACHTMANN; ASKS AUDITOR TO LOOK INTO WORKERS’ COMP COUNCIL
For Immediate Release: April 20, 2011 Contact: Dale Butland 614-783-5833
Innovation Ohio’s Taxpayer Rip-Off Of the Week: The Workers’ Compensation Council: Boondoggle Supreme A $100,000 Director, a $950,000 budget, 0 staff, and 1 Report in 3 years
Columbus—Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, today presented its “Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week” Award to the Workers’ Compensation Council, a state agency created by the General Assembly in 2007 at the behest of then Representative and now Speaker William Batchelder to provide legislative analysis and oversight for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Despite doing virtually no work, the Council pays its sole employee—Director Virginia McInerney—over $100,000 annually.The Council’s budget—set for $942,400 in the next biennium—is paid through assessments on Ohio businesses. According to the agency’s own website (www.wcc.state.oh.us) the Council has produced exactly one (1) report since it began operations in 2008. In February, 2010, Ms. McInerney abruptly fired all three of the Council’s staff members who, in turn, filed wrongful termination suits alleging religious harassment by the Director, and citing bizarre workplace prayer rituals and scripture readings in which they were expected to participate. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the suits were settled in August, 2010 for a total payment of $70,000 ($55,000 for the staffers and $15,000 for their attorney), and that these costs were eventually borne by Ohio businesses. Read the story here. Said Innovation Ohio Communications Director Dale Butland: “In a target rich environment, the Workers’ Comp Council is the hands-down winner of this week’s Tax Payer Rip-Off Award. In three years, the Council has produced a grand total of one report. Yet the Director—who last year fired the only three staff members she had—is paid more than $100,000 per year for doing essentially nothing. Even worse, her apparent religious proselytizing in the workplace ended up costing Ohio businesses another $70,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the three staffers she fired. “Surely Gov. Kasich and his allies who control the General Assembly will be outraged over this million dollar boondoggle. At a time when they’re slashing the budget of the Ohio Consumers Counsel and asking local governments and school districts to “do more with less”, there is an agency right under their noses doing nothing with more. So we’re confident that they’ll end this abuse ‘at the speed of business.’ After all, it’s a golden opportunity to show that they’ll be as tough on conservative political appointees as they are on police, firefighters and teachers.”