Blackwell: Hypocrisy and the arrogance of power
February 22, 2005
J. Kenneth Blackwell is at it again. Ohio’s infamous Secretary of State and master of media distortion and hype, earning him the name “Inkwell” among the statehouse press corps, has announced his partisan agenda for governor of the Buckeye State.
Blackwell, Ohio’s first statewide African American office holder, has rapidly moved to stake out the far right of the Ohio Republican Party as his political base. The Secretary of State has found himself consistently at odds with mainstream conservatives in the state’s GOP.
Last week, the Franklin County Board of Elections, under the control of Republican Executive Director Matt Damschroder, obtained a temporary restraining order against Blackwell. In another of his notorious imperial decrees, the Secretary of State ordered all 88 county boards to buy optical-scan voting systems from two well-known Republican-linked companies, Diebold and ES&S.
Republican Attorney General Jim Petro issued an opinion stating that Blackwell does not have the authority to limit a county’s choice as to specific types of voting systems.
Hart InterCivic, Inc. filed suit against Blackwell seeking reimbursement for millions of dollars they had spent trying to market their voting system in Ohio, based on the assumption that there would be competitive bidding.
Once again, Blackwell went to court to make sure he would not have to testify under oath, and once again, he succeeded.
In December 2004, Blackwell refused to appear for a deposition scheduled in the Moss v. Bush election challenge case looking into the massive voting irregularities on Election Day.
The Associated Press (AP) reported on December 27 that Blackwell “…requested a protective order to prevent him from being interviewed as part of an unusual court challenge of the presidential vote.”
Blackwell accused the lawyers seeking to put him under oath of “frivolous conduct” and the Secretary of State is seeking to punish them with sanctions through the Attorney General’s office. (See Sidebar)
Republican State Representative Jim Trakas announced on Monday, February 21 his bid to replace Blackwell as Secretary of State. In a backhanded indictment of Blackwell, Trakas, who is a seamless right-to-life Republican opposing both abortion rights and the death penalty, said that people “seem to be lacking . . . confidence in the election process.”
“I don’t blame that on Secretary Ken Blackwell, but the environment for the last election really hurt that [confidence],
and I want to restore it,” Trakas said, according to the AP.
One of the most straightforward critiques of Blackwell’s role in the 2004 election was published in the Marion Star, the newspaper owned at one time by Republican President Warren G. Harding. Jim Slagle, Marion County’s Prosecuting Attorney, wrote a column entitled “Ohio’s election law needs fixed” on December 14, 2004.
Slagle wrote: “Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was the Ohio chairman of President Bush’s re-election campaign. At the same time, as Secretary of State, Blackwell set the rules for the election by issuing directives to the boards of elections in Ohio’s 88 counties. He also decided every disputed issue on which the local boards of elections had a 2-2 vote. This is like allowing the manager of the New York Yankees to also serve as the chief umpire in the World Series. This is wrong and it ought not be allowed.”
The Republican prosecutor goes on to write that, “Recounts should be conducted promptly, when properly requested” referring to the lawful recount of the Green and Libertarian Parties of Ohio following the November 2 election. Slagle concludes, “This is the law and it ought to be followed. Unfortunately, Secretary of State Blackwell, much like a basketball team running out the clock to protect its lead, ignored the law and prevented a meaningful recount from being conducted in the Presidential race.”
“…Blackwell instructed the 88 boards of elections that they need not conduct the recount until after Dec. 13, the day the electoral college meets in all 50 states to cast the electoral votes for President. By delaying the recount, Blackwell made sure that the recount could not change the winner, since once the electoral votes are cast there’s not procedure to change the results. … by delaying the recount, Secretary of State Blackwell set a dangerous precedent which could be used to prevent a recount in a future Presidential election in which the results are in question,” Slagle said.
On February 9, Blackwell declined to testify at a Congressional panel chaired by Ohio Republican Bob Ney of St. Clairsville investigating the 2004 election. The Secretary of State’s decision “is likely to produce friction,” explained the Columbus Dispatch.
In a reference to Blackwell and Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, Ney noted, “I think the Secretary of States should be here today. I’m disappointed that they’re not here. …We can have disagreements, but you can’t run, you can’t hide,” according to Copley press service.
While Blackwell continues to duck and cover and avoid testifying on his role in the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign and the massive irregularities documented in U.S. Representative John Conyer’s 102-page report as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, he’s left an easily traceable trail in newspaper ink of partisan and questionable behavior dating back decades.
Piecing together Blackwell’s political past provides a prediction of what type of governor Ohio’s most opportunistic and unprincipled politician would be.
His past reveals a lack of any core value system and an uncanny chameleon ability to use any means necessary to advance his career. While Blackwell
portrays himself as a man of high character and provides lessons on character on his website, the real Kenneth Blackwell is a power player with well-established ties to the Bush family.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on November 16, 2000 that “while waiting for the court decisions [Bush v. Gore] Blackwell joined the Bush ‘spin team’ making the rounds of cable, national network television and radio broadcast tents.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer also records Blackwell’s role in Bush’s 2000 Florida election. “Mr. Blackwell popped up in West Palm Beach on Wednesday, as an electoral expert for the Bush campaign,” the paper reported on November 19, 2000.
The Columbus Dispatch was even more direct in terms of Blackwell’s role in the 2000 Florida election debacle, “Like a secret weapon moved to the battlefront, the Bush campaign yesterday dispatched its ‘principal electoral system advisor’ to ground zero of the Flordia vote brouhaha …Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.”
Blackwell’s role in the 2004 Bush campaign has been widely publicized; but his key status as Bush advisor in winning the state of Ohio is less well-known. Blackwell was instrumental in putting the gay-baiting Issue One on the ballot to bring out the Bush vote. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on September 14, 2004, “Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell sent a letter to supporters last month saying gay marriage is an important issue in ‘determining where Ohio’s electoral votes will go.’”
The man responsible for conducting the election, the Enquirer observed, “…stands by his statement to 1500 state GOP leaders last month – in a letter written on ‘Blackwell for Governor’ letterhead – that the amendment could help Bush carry Ohio and thus win the election.”
In 2003, the Dispatch accused Blackwell of “going where previous Secretary of States have not ventured, assuming a point man’s role in a highly contentious state-issue campaign….
So when he steps onto the field to take a lead player’s role in this tax repeal campaign, he invites skepticism about his ability to be a fair arbiter when election questions arise, as they inevitably will.”
Indeed, Blackwell loves to stretch the limits, like sending out a 5-page letter to GOP donors requesting illegal corporate checks and taking credit for Bush’s Ohio 2004 “victory.”
Blackwell’s biography establishes that is he’s on the Board of Advisors of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which describes itself as “the most influential group on the issue of U.S.-Israel military relations. Well-known war hawk Richard Perle, one of the architects of the attack on Iraq, is also a Board member and Dick Cheney has served on the Board in the past.
Blackwell is also listed as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a powerful private organization that has influenced foreign policy since 1921. These affiliations suggest that the former Democratic Mayor of Cincinnati may be looking beyond the governorship of Ohio. The former Xavier University linebacker has become a favorite on key national political shows like The O’Reilly Factor, Crossfire, Inside Politics, The Jim Lehrer Newshour and The Tavis Smiley Show.
A favorite tactic of Blackwell is to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. While Blackwell was busy rejecting primarily African American and poor voters’ registrations
, especially if they weren’t on 80-lb. paper weight, and refusing to have provisional ballots counted if they were cast outside of a precinct in the Buckeye state, he told Tavis Smiley, “I think it really comes down to a fundamental understanding that you cannot have a genuinely free society unless it’s on a moral foundation.”