A top aide for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) directly interfered in the Ohio redistricting process to the benefit of a corporation that is headed by major Republican donors, according to a recently released report by an Ohio public advocacy group.
Emails obtained by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting showed that Tom Whatman, Chief Executive of Team Boehner — a group dedicated to raising money for GOP candidates — asked National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) redistricting director Adam Kincaid to add the Timken Co. headquarters to Rep. Jim Renacci’s (R-OH) new 16th congressional district.
“Guys: really really sorry to ask but can we do a small carve out down 77 in Canton and put Timken hq in the 16th,” Whatman wrote on Sept. 12.
“Yeah, sure, no problem,” Kincaid replied eight minutes later.
By 9 a.m. the next morning, state Rep. Matt Huffman (R), chairman of the Ohio House State Government and Elections Committee, had introduced a new redistricting bill that included the “Timken peninsula,” an area that the 2010 U.S. Census says has no residents.
Although Team Boehner spokesman Cory Fritz asserted in November that the speaker “has no official role in the redistricting process,” a Sept. 11 email showed that state Senate President Thomas Niehaus was “committed to ending up with a map that Speaker Boehner fully supports.”
“The Timken Corporation is a major regional employer,” Fritz admitted in a statement Monday. “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there was interest in trying to address their concerns.”
Timken Co. spokeswoman Lorrie Crum insisted that no one from the company had a role in creating the new map.
Renacci has also denied requesting the “Timken peninsula” carve out.
“Jim Renacci had no say over how the new Congressional district lines were drawn,” Renacci spokesman Shawn Ryan told the paper. “He also made no requests. Had Rep. Renacci (wielded) any control over the process the new 16th District would have included all of Stark County, and he would not have been drawn into a district with another sitting Member of Congress.”
Ohio House Republican spokesman Mike Dittoe has claimed that “[c]ampaign contributions do not dictate where congressional lines are drawn,” but critics simply aren’t buying it.
“How can it be any other explanation?” Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting manager Jim Slagle asked. “I think that’s outrageous that you’re manipulating districts to enhance political contributions. I also think it’s outrageous just by making a request from Speaker Boehner, changes made. No questions asked.”
Ohio Citizen Action legislative director Catherine Turcer noted that “[a]ll this stuff happens behind closed doors, so we’re left with guessing.”
“It’s a pretty good educated guess that the congressman wanted to be connected to the Timken plant and conceivably to the Timken contributions,” she said.
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