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Published: Saturday, 5/3/2008

Drunk with power

THE scandal that has engulfed Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann is illustrative of a disease that affects some politicians who take office after a major election victory.

Suddenly empowered, they feel annointed and invulnerable rather than humble and thankful to have been entrusted with the voters' confidence. And they do stupid things.

In this case, Mr. Dann, who was elected in the Democrats' near-sweep of state offices in 2006, surrounded himself with cronies from his days in Youngstown. And he believed - naively, by his own admission - that they could do jobs for which they were not qualified or suited.

On Friday, investigators painted a disturbing picture of an Animal House atmosphere at the highest level of the attorney general's office, in which Mr. Dann turned a blind eye toward sexual harassment and improper fraternization with a small group of lower-level employees, all stoked by profanity-laced e-mails and heavy drinking.

The result: three officials lost their jobs, and Mr. Dann was forced to admit publicly that he had an affair with an unnamed subordinate.

The attorney general vowed to remain in office, saying the personal embarrassment of the scandal was punishment enough. But by the end of the day, there were growing calls for his resignation. Even Gov. Ted Strickland joined those questioning whether Mr. Dann should stay.

Mr. Strickland should not be smug, as he also has developed a dismaying amnesia about what he owes those who helped get him to office. Otherwise, the Seneca County courthouse wouldn't be facing the wrecking ball.

At the least, the scandal surrounding Mr. Dann has wiped the shine off any sense of entitlement Ohio Democrats felt with their hold on state government, and it's given Republicans a political opportunity they don't deserve.

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