BATTLEGROUND VOICES: Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga

Put American workers at the table in trade deals and keep them off the menu

By Tim Burga  Burga_Headshot_web

As Congress begins debate on whether to give President Obama unilateral authority to negotiate a new round of international trade agreements (“Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority), Ohioans would be well served to look at the catastrophic results of recent such arrangements. Between 2000 and 2014, American manufacturing employment dropped by 4 million jobs.  Fast Track authority and flawed trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), along with the inclusion of China in Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR), have blown up our import/export deficit and have led to the loss of over 300,000 Ohio manufacturing jobs and numerous additional losses in feeder and supply related work.

Fast Track circumvents Congressional oversight, limits transparency and has resulted in trade agreements that have benefitted global corporations at the expense of workers and their families.  Fast Track needs to be replaced with a new process for negotiating and approving trade agreements that increases Congressional and public oversight so that we can harvest the benefits of expanded trade without undermining the basic tenants of American democracy.

America’s working families cannot afford more flawed trade agreements that hollow out our industrial base, drive down wages, increase inequality, and add to our unsustainable trade deficit.  Congress should reject any legislation that allows trade negotiations to be done in secret which prevent federal, state and local elected officials or the public from being able to meaningfully participate in trade policy making.   Our most recent trade negotiating practices have hurt our economy in profound ways and we simply cannot afford to keep making those same mistakes.

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America’s workers understand that global trade is a necessary part of economic growth. They also understand that the evidence is overwhelming that a new U.S. trade model is desperately needed- a new “gold standard” model that prioritizes raising wages and shared prosperity for workers.  ”Buy American” should be much more than just a slogan- it should be the centerpiece of every decision that Congress and the President make.

Sign the petition and tell Congress that America needs jobs, not bad trade policy. Put the brakes on the “fast track” bill.

Tim Burga is President of the Ohio AFL-CIO.

Ohio Democratic Party Statement on Kasich’s State of the State Address

WILMINGTON- In advance of Governor Kasich’s State of the State Address tonight in Wilmington, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper released the following statement:

“The state of the state can be summed up in four words: trickle down doesn’t work. Ohio’s recovery is lagging other states because wages remain stagnant, too many working families continue to struggle, and Governor Kasich keeps asking those with the least to pay more in order to fund tax cuts for those doing well.  The latest budget proposal is more of the same: in Wilmington, the average family will have their taxes raised by $122 in the Governor’s latest tax plan.

“As Leaders Schiavoni and Strahorn have made clear, the path to prosperity in Ohio requires the opposite approach. Focus on middle class prosperity—increasing wages, improving schools, investing in infrastucture, respecting working families—and then the state of the state will ultimately be strong.”

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Senator Portman’s Approval Rating Weak in Latest Quinnipiac Poll

Today, Quinnipiac University released a poll showing Senator Rob Portman’s favorability at 40%, having dropped four points from a poll conducted last May. When asked if Sen. Portman should have a second term, 37% of respondents said no.

In response, Ohio Democratic Party Communications Director Meredith Tucker released the following statement:

“Senator Portman’s very weak poll numbers today are a result of his long record of promoting policies that have hurt working Ohioans, like supporting the government shutdown and opposing the auto rescue that saved Ohio’s economy. This 2016 U.S. Senate race will be extremely competitive, and with potential candidates like PG Sittenfeld, Governor Ted Strickland, Congressman Tim Ryan, and former Congresswoman Betty Sutton, we have a strong, talented bench of Democrats who are well positioned to replace Senator Portman and work every day to fight for Ohio’s middle class families.”

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Councilmember: Governor Should Visit Wyoming (Ohio) To See Effects of His Local Government Fund Raids

COLUMBUS- This week, Ohio Governor John Kasich is traveling throughout the western United States on what he calls a “balanced budget tour,” appearing in Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
 
In response to the governor’s cross-country political grandstanding, Wyoming (Ohio) City Councilman Jim O’Reilly and ODP Chairman David Pepper released the following statements:
 
“Instead of touring the state of Wyoming, the Governor ought to visit Wyoming, Ohio, and bring with him the millions in funds he took from our schools and city to balance his budget,” said long-time Wyoming City Councilman Jim O’Reilly. “Our experience with Governor Kasich balancing a budget is watching him raid communities like ours all over Ohio.”
 
“Across Ohio, from Idaho, Oregon and Nevada to London, Lebanon and Lisbon, families are looking for leadership on issues like stagnant wages and exploding college debt,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.
 
“What Governor Kasich is probably not boasting about on his Western jaunt is how he balanced the budget in Ohio: Seizing dollars from schools and local governments for his own budget, and forcing them to make the tough decisions.  The results—layoffs and higher taxes in many communities across Ohio—are a major reason Ohio’s recovery has lagged so many other states.”

ODP Chairman David Pepper Announces “Main Street Initiative” 

Ohio Democratic Party Bolsters Emphasis on Local Races in ’15 and Beyond 

COLUMBUS- Last night, at a meeting with county party chairs from across the state, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper announced the Party’s plan to make early investments in local races throughout Ohio in 2015.

The Main Street Initiative will be laser focused on providing direct support to local candidates and staff, including financial investments to targeted races, messaging, voter contact, and fundraising trainings, and access to cutting edge technology and data, among other things.

To jump start the important investment in this strategy, David Pepper, former State Senator and ODP Chair of Political Engagement Nina Turner, former statewide candidate and State Representative John Patrick Carney, Cincinnati City Councilman PG Sittenfeld, former statewide candidate and State Representative Connie Pillich and others have already committed funds from their campaign committees to the Party’s new Main Street Victory Fund.

“Everything in politics starts at the local level—good candidates, good ideas, critical services,” Pepper said. “This strategy and fund represent our commitment to build this party from the local level, where it all begins. I’m proud to personally make the first contribution today to a program I believe will produce great results this year and beyond.”

“As Democrats, it’s our responsibility to care about the welfare of ALL Ohioans, and our Main Street Initiative is an opportunity to put our values into action,” Turner said.  “It’s great to have Democrats in the U.S. Senate and the White House, but if we don’t support and cultivate our leaders at the local level, those of us living on Main Street from Cuyahoga County to Butler County are in real trouble.”

“Having a strong bench of local elected officials is key to ensuring Democratic values are enacted in communities all over our state,” said John Patrick Carney, who also committed to support the Fund. “I’m excited to be a part of this important investment in those communities.”

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Ohio Democratic Party Statement on Governor Kasich’s Inauguration

COLUMBUS- Today, John Kasich was sworn into his second term as Ohio governor.

In response to the Governor’s Inauguration speech today, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper congratulated the Governor on his second term, and released the following statement:

“As Ohioans who want to move our state forward, Democratic officeholders at every level are focused on strengthening our state and its communities, and standing up for middle class and working families who continue to be squeezed by stagnant wages and higher costs.

“Unfortunately, throughout Governor Kasich’s first term, we saw just the opposite—with an agenda that divided our state with attacks on public workers, tax changes that shifted a greater burden onto the backs of working Ohioans in order to benefit the wealthy, and budgets that raided funds from local communities causing many families to struggle. And while Ohio benefitted from a national recovery, these and other state polices resulted in Ohio’s recovery consistently lagging behind the rest of the country.

“In his inaugural address today, Governor Kasich highlighted the need for us to work together as individuals for the greater good, and we share that sentiment. Unlike the past four years, we hope that the policies he and others in Columbus enact make that commitment a reality rather than the usual rhetoric.”

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Ohio Republican Party Launders Money To Fund Shadow Group for Kasich’s Friend and Major Donor

COLUMBUS- Today, the Ohio Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against the Ohio Republican Party for laundering money  by making improper transfers from its taxpayer checkoff funds into accounts designed to cover a party’s overhead expenses to instead pay for Project Ruby and federal accounts to assist Republican candidates for Congress.

The money generated into the tax return checkoff is, by law, prohibited to be used to elect candidates for office.  However, the Ohio Republican Party’s campaign finance reports shows it made transfers from the account to cover the cost of the party’s Project Ruby, which was created by one of Governor Kasich’s longest serving major donors while he was the head of JobsOhio.  Project Ruby, by the Ohio Republican Party’s own admission, is a data program designed to help them turnout votes to influence elections.

In filing today’s complaint, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern issued the following statement:

“This is not a one-time offense. Under Matt Borges, the Ohio Republican Party has done this for at least four months. Taxpayer resources are being used for political gains and to personally enrich Marc Kvamme in yet another way after he made millions from the connections he made during his brief tenure at JobsOhio.”

Ohio Democratic Party Response to Purported OSBA Letter

After French disregards Judicial Code, calls Court “backstop” for Republicans,Republicans hypocritically use State Bar Association to attack O’Donnell

COLUMBUS – Two days ago, the Ohio Supreme Court campaign of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell released its first television ad of the campaign.  The ad references the same criticisms of the Kasich appointee’s short tenure on the court several major Ohio papers have noted in endorsing John P. O’Donnell.

Here’s what leading Ohio papers have said about Justice French:

“[French] ruled for the court majority that the group did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of Governor Kasich’s JobsOhio, a privatized economic development agency. By not allowing the court to examine whether the state constitution prohibits the state from investing in a private entity, justices denied the taxpayers of Ohio an answer to a legitimate and important question.

“In another case, Ms. French sided with the majority in favor of American Electric Power, deciding the utility could keep more than $350 million of unjustified charges it collected from customers. Before the decision, Ms. French got a campaign contribution of more than $6,000 from the American Electric Power Committee for Responsible Government . . . it does not represent what Ohioans should expect from the supreme arbiters of their laws.”  [Source: Toledo Blade editorial (10/6/2014), “Supreme Justice.”]

After recapping the facts of French’s ruling for AEP and its donations around the time of the decision, the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board noted “the issue of appearances in a state that elects judges matters.”  [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer (9/30/2014), “John P. O’Donnell for Ohio Supreme Court.”]

Last evening, the Ohio Republican Party began touting a letter from one of the committees of the OSBA.  The ad highlights donations that Governor Kasich’s appointee took from AEP shortly before and after ruling in its favor in an opinion even the majority conceded was “unfair” to consumers.  [Source: Columbus Business First (2/13/2014), “AEP allowed to keep $368M ‘windfall’ from customers, Supreme Court says, despite ‘unfair’ outcome.”]

In response, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern released the following statement:

“This factual ad merely references what multiple papers have noted is very troubling about Governor Kasich’s appointee’s short record on the Court, something that the First Amendment gives Judge O’Donnell the right to highlight information about his opponent that both his campaign and newspapers believe is relevant for voters to know about the race.   We hope the Ohio State Bar Association aggressively addresses Justice French’s comments about keeping the Court a conservative ‘backstop’ to protect the Republican agenda and points out the Ohio Republican Party’s hypocrisy here.”

BACKGROUND

In an opinion written by Justice Scalia, the United States Supreme Court held that rules that prohibit discussion of issue of public interest to the voters as unconstitutional under the First Amendment.  In Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, held that rules that do not permit judicial campaigns to discuss issues of interest of the public in such races are unconstitutional in elected judicial races, including campaign literature that criticizes decisions of the Court.  [Source: Republican Party of Minnesota v. White (2002), 536 U.S. 765.]

French declared her election was about keeping the court “conservative” and a “backstop” for the Republican Party agenda.  This past weekend, Justice French gave pro-Republican remarks while introducing Governor Kasich at GOP fundraiser in Powell.  French talked about her partisanship as a Republican and described her role on the Court as “the backstop for Republican legislation.” French went on to tell the crowd they should vote for her and “keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative”, so that if Republican legislation is brought to the Court, it is a conservative Court making the decision.   [Source: Columbus Dispatch (10/25/2014), “Justice French: Court the ‘backstop’ for GOP legislation.”]

French has failed to abide by same OSBA’s rules by not denouncing third-party ads. French was Governor Kasich’s appointee to the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of Kasich’s signature program, JobsOhio. French has benefitted from “independent expenditures” from American Freedom Builders, a PAC formed by former JobsOhio head Marc Kvamme.  The PAC has ran ads suggesting how she’ll rule on death penalty cases.[Source: Columbus Dispatch (10/25/2014), “Third-party group backing French with TV spots.”]

In 2012, the Ohio Republican Party ignored an OSBA finding that their ad that attacked then Judge O’Neill over a conviction… that was reversed on appeal.  The OSBA “blasted a new commercial financed by the Ohio Republican Party that accuses the challenger of a GOP incumbent Ohio Supreme Court justice of sympathizing with rapists.”  The attack failed to note that the conviction at issue was reversed in an unanimous appellate decision.  But the Ohio GOP refused to pull the ad. [Source: Toledo Blade (10/26/2012), “State bar association chastises Republican Party for Justice campaign ad.”]

O’Donnell Supreme Court Campaign Releases Campaign Ad

After French disregards Judicial Code, calls Court “backstop” for Republicans, ad highlights curiously timed corporate PAC donations

COLUMBUS – Today, the Ohio Supreme Court campaign of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell released its first television ad of the campaign.  The ad highlights donations that Governor Kasich’s appointee took from AEP shortly before and after ruling in its favor in an opinion even the majority conceded was “unfair” to consumers.  [Source: Columbus Business First (2/13/2014), “AEP allowed to keep $368M ‘windfall’ from customers, Supreme Court says, despite ‘unfair’ outcome;” Cleveland Plain Dealer (9/30/2014), “John P. O’Donnell for Ohio Supreme Court;” Toledo Blade editorial (10/6/2014), “Supreme Justice.”]

This past weekend, Justice French gave pro-Republican remarks while introducing Governor Kasich at GOP fundraiser in Powell.  French talked about her partisanship as a Republican and described her role on the Court as “the backstop for Republican legislation.” French went on to tell the crowd they should vote for her and “keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative”, so that if Republican legislation is brought to the Court, it is a conservative Court making the decision.   [Source: Columbus Dispatch (10/25/2014), “Justice French: Court the ‘backstop’ for GOP legislation.”]

French was Governor Kasich’s appointee to the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of Kasich’s signature program, JobsOhio. French has benefitted from “independent expenditures” from American Freedom Builders, a PAC formed by former JobsOhio head Marc Kvamme.  [Source: Columbus Dispatch (10/25/2014), “Third-party group backing French with TV spots.”]

In response, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern released the following statement:

“Since being handpicked by Governor Kasich just last year, Justice French has quickly built of reputation of making outrageous partisan remarks and receiving ethically questionable donations that show a disturbing disregard for the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct.  Voters deserve a fair and impartial Supreme Court Justice who will work on behalf of all Ohioans, which is why they’ll elect Judge John P. O’Donnell this November.”

Supreme Court Justice French Gives Partisan Speech

French disregards Judicial Code, calls Court “backstop” for Republicans

This past weekend, Supreme Court Justice Judith French gave pro-Republican remarks while introducing Governor Kasich at GOP fundraiser in Powell. As reported in the Columbus Dispatch, French talked about her partisanship as a Republican, and described her role on the Court as “the backstop for Republican legislation,” not abiding by the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct which requires judicial candidates to remain non-partisan when talking about their race or candidacy. French went on to tell the crowd they should vote for her and “keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative”, so that if Republican legislation is brought to the Court, it is a conservative Court making the decision.

French was Governor Kasich’s appointee to the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of Kasich’s signature program, JobsOhio. In this year’s election, she faces opponent John P. O’Donnell, a Cuyahoga County common pleas court judge.

In response, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern released the following statement:

“Justice French’s partisan remarks are outrageous and show a disturbing disregard for the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct. French, a Kasich appointee, has revealed that instead of acting as an impartial Justice, she is a partisan political appointee that puts her Republican Party’s agenda above fairly interpreting and enforcing the law. Voters deserve a fair and impartial Supreme Court Justice who will work on behalf of all Ohioans, which is why they’ll elect Judge John P. O’Donnell this November.”

Paid for and authorized by the Ohio Democratic Party, not authorized by any federal candidate or campaign committee. David Pepper, Chairman, 340 East Fulton St, Columbus, Ohio 43215.