Friday, October 20, 2006

The Ken Blackwell Story: A History of No-Bid Contracts and Lax Oversight

Columbus, Ohio – To hear him speak, you’d think Ken Blackwell was the ultimate reformer, someone who would change the pay-to-play culture in Columbus.

But despite telling the Columbus Dispatch in February that “I have not received any money from anybody who has an unbid contract,” Blackwell has in fact received $38,000 in contributions from state vendors who received no-bid contracts. Later, Blackwell corrected himself, saying he had taken such contributions, but “without arm-twisting.” Columbus Dispatch, 3/12/2006.

In fact, a Toledo Blade investigation found that Blackwell had accepted more than $1 million in contributions from employees of firms seeking to do business with his office. Toledo Blade, 4/16/2006.

“Blackwell is a ring leader in the pay-to-play culture in Columbus. He’ll say one thing and do another and just can’t be trusted,” said Redfern.

In a press conference yesterday, Blackwell had the nerve to claim that reforms he proposed would have stopped the Tom Noe embezzlement scandal from happening, even though as state treasurer he signed the check giving Noe the first $25 million to invest. A review of Blackwell’s actions when news of the coin investments broke reveals a startling lack of urgency.

According to the Toledo Blade, Blackwell downplayed the significance of the $10 million in state funds found missing from the coin investment. “When you run a fund the size of $18 billion and you’re looking at $50 million, beyond what one’s disposition might be, is that an irresponsible amount of risk? Most people would say no.” Toledo Blade, 6/5/2005.

But two months later, after public pressure mounted, Blackwell reversed course, calling for a federal investigation and saying the coin scheme “gets to the heart of the integrity of governance.” 6/5/2005.

“Ken Blackwell is no reformer,” Redfern said. “He has been a part of the failed leadership in Columbus that has shattered Ohioans’ trust in their state government.”

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