Back in mid-September, the Republicans in the Ohio legislature tasked with creating the new congressional districts pulled a wild and wacky map out of thin air and pushed it to a vote in 48 hours. That left no one with time to study it and ask questions like, “Why are all the cities split into little pieces?” or “Why does this district meander over half the state and look like Pacman with a hangover?” Observers were scratching their heads wondering what happened to the input from a series of statewide public hearings or the maps submitted by citizens to DrawTheLineOhio, which the legislators promised to review.
Well, we now know. Yesterday, a coalition of groups called the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, led by the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action, released a report titled “The Elephant in the Room,” based on public-records requests. It reveals that the bizarre map passed by the legislature was hatched in deliberate secrecy behind locked — and taxpayer-funded — doors referred to as “the bunker,” that the man behind the curtain was Congressman John Boehner (Oh-08), and that citizen input was never part of their considerations.
Well, not unless those citizens had money and were willing to give it up to politicians. Among the stinkier revelations: In an email dated September 12 — just before the map was released — Tom Whatman, executive director of Boehner’s campaign arm, Team Boehner, writes to the mapmakers, “guys really really sorry to ask but can we do a small carve out down 77 and put Timken HQ in the 16th.” The request is immediately honored and he responds, “Thanks guys. Very important to someone important to all of us.”
That “someone” is William R. “Tim” Timken Jr, of Canton’s Timken Co., a major major Republican donor, and he’s requesting to have his company moved into the friendly territory of Congressman Jim Renacci.
The revelations — likely only the tip of the iceberg given that some of the coalition’s public record requests have not yet been honored — are likely to fuel the campaign to repeal HB 319, the legislation that created the map. Petition circulations have been gathering signatures since early November, and have until December 23 to turn in 231,150 signatures. — Anastasia Pantsios