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Published: Wednesday, 6/12/2002

The price of stardom

Ohio's inspector general has found no wrongdoing in the flap over a state tourism commercial that was re-shot to include an appearance by Governor Taft. That's good for Mr. Taft, but we could have predicted the outcome. After all, it's not illegal to waste state money.

Democrats complained that the $554,000 commercial had been needlessly redone to include an appearance by the Republican governor, at an extra cost exceeding $100,000. As a side issue, the Democrats contended that the governor's office improperly failed to provide all of the relevant public records they requested.

On both counts, the inspector general, Thomas P. Charles, said he could find no evidence of “wrongdoing” on the part of state officials, although he qualified his opinion somewhat.

A court, Mr. Charles said, would have to rule on the records issue. As for including the governor in the TV spot, the inspector general was more definite, saying, “we cannot legitimately find a basis to suggest that this constitutes any impropriety.”

But, in an apparent attempt to buttress his finding, the inspector general undercut his own argument. He pointed out that 60 percent of the tourism spots “were aired outside of Ohio.” Which is another way of saying that 40 percent of the commercials were aired here in Ohio, putting Mr. Taft's mug on TV before his constituents for three months last year, paid for by taxpayer dollars.

The tone of the inspector general's report indicated he was uncomfortable in being dragged into what, after all, was a minor election year political dustup. So we'll say what he should have said, in plain words: Wasting state money is not illegal, just bad policy.

And we'll repeat the question we posed when this controversy first arose: If the governors of Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania don't appear in their state's tourism spots, why does Mr. Taft feel compelled to star in ours?



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