Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich (R) spent much of his campaign selling the “accountability” and “transparency” buzzwords to Ohio constituents this year. Touting a “new way” of doing politics, Kasich promised to “recharge Ohio” with a smaller, more open government that would require accountability within important sectors — like education — that weren’t up to par. This generic rhetoric, however, sounded enough like a revolution to win him the endorsements of several prominent state newspapers, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Columbus Dispatch, and the conservative Cincinnati Enquirer.
But just weeks after defeating Ohio’s incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland (D), Kasich’s incoming administration is turning on those previously-espoused principles and refusing to release the resumes of the job applicants for politically-appointed state government jobs. While Strickland “regularly” released the records of job applicants for the public, Kasich claims that because the resumes are solicited via www.fixohionow.com — a private site owned by the Kasich-Taylor New Day Committee, Inc. — those who desire to work for him have an expectation of privacy. Pointing out that Kasich won its endorsement based on his stated “bias towards openness,” the once-supportive Cincinnati Enquirer lambasted his rationale as “an outrageous nose-thumbing at well-established principles of openness”:
Mere weeks after defeating incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland, the Kasich team has said it won’t make the names or resumes of applicants for state jobs public — an outrageous nose-thumbing at well-established principles of openness and disclosure of public information.
Within a day of opening his FixOhioNow.com website, Kasich had received more than 1,500 resumes for public jobs via e-mail to the site.
But if he gets his way, the public will never know who applied, what criteria were used in hiring — or who might have been more qualified choices.[…]
If this is “transparency,” we’d hate to see what opacity looks like in a Kasich administration.[…]
Governing is not an exercise in devising mechanisms to shut out the citizens you purport to represent — and for whom you are working.[…]
There may be a legal gray area here regarding the private site. That’s for courts to decide. But you don’t have to be an attorney to understand that well-established precedents toward disclosure are being snubbed — and that the spirit of Ohio’s open records laws is clearly being violated.[…]
You can’t privatize the public’s right to know.
Mr. Kasich, you may not be “worried about transparency,” but we sure are.
Another Ohio paper that endorsed Kasich, the Canton Repository, called Kasich’s transparency tap dance “baloney,” demanding to know “where’s the transparency?” Also noting Strickland’s adherence to disclosure, the Repository pointed out that “not only is Kasich sending the wrong message about his commitment to openness, he’s also not doing himself any favors when it comes to winning support” for his “controversial” idea to privatize the Ohio Department and Development, a plan the Repository accepts if “Kasich keeps his commitment to transparency.” However, as noted by Ohio Attorney General Rob Cordray, Kasich “fails [the] transparency test” there too.
While deeply frustrating to the newspapers who believed his rhetoric, Kasich’s retreat into opacity should not be surprising; its an increasingly popular part of the GOP playbook. This campaign season, Republican candidates maneuvered around public accountability as an electoral strategy — a strategy so successful that House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) included it in a survival guide for freshmen House Republicans, even telling them which Capitol tunnel to take to avoid the press completely. With the GOP leadership prescribing the direct opposite of accountability, Kasich may just be following new orders. During his campaign, Kasich told Ohioans “if you’ve got something you want to know, I’ll tell you.” But as the Enquirer aptly points out, “that was then, this is now.” (HT: Plunderbund)