FINDLAY - Republican candidate for governor John Kasich stumped on Main Street here yesterday while his former job with failed investment firm Lehman Brothers came under renewed attack and scrutiny.
In Columbus, Democratic incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland blasted Mr. Kasich, saying he profited personally even as the company's collapse in 2008 caused large losses among Ohio pension funds.
And The (Columbus) Dispatch reported that Mr. Kasich tried to persuade two state pension funds in 2002 to invest with Lehman Brothers while he was the managing director of the investment banking house's Columbus office.
Mr. Kasich and running mate Mary Taylor spoke to dozens of supporters outside the Elks Lodge yesterday afternoon and then mixed with diners inside Wilson's Sandwich Shop across South Main Street.
The store's front was emblazoned with the names Kasich and Taylor in large letters, at the request of a granddaughter of part-owner Pat Baker.
"Anything to get the current governor out is good for me," said the granddaughter, Shelly Coonrod, who said she is a member of the local Young Republicans.
Mr. Kasich promised "efficient, effective government that operates like a family does with their budget, making choices, stop kicking the problems down the road, face up to them, accept personal responsibility."
He also promised lower taxes, "common sense" regulations, a fixed workers' compensation system, and retraining of workers done primarily by business people "with a little bit of help from the government."
In a speech in Columbus earlier in the day, Mr. Strickland accused Mr. Kasich of making big money on Wall Street and then erasing that part of his experience from his Web site.
"When Lehman Brothers plummeted into the largest bankruptcy in the history of the United States, Congressman Kasich and the top people at Lehman Brothers put out their hands and kept getting paid," Mr. Strickland said.
"And while he was taking home a massive salary and bonus, living on the fruits of a bankruptcy, people who saved all their lives for retirement took home the rind," Mr. Strickland said.
He said the failure of Lehman undercut Mr. Kasich's claim of being a business leader who understands how to make business successful.
Last month, Mr. Strickland released his tax returns for the last four years, challenging Mr. Kasich to do the same.
Mr. Kasich showed reporters only his 2008 return.
Mr. Kasich stopped in Findlay and Lima on the first day of a three-day, 16-stop bus trip of the state.
"Today the governor again spent his day attacking me, smearing me, using innuendo against me," Mr. Kasich said.
"I don't spend my time waking up every day trying to figure out how to tear somebody else down."
In a reply to questions from the Dispatch, Kasich campaign officials acknowledged that the former congressman helped arrange the two meetings between Lehman officials and representatives of the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, known as OPERS, the paper reported.
Kasich campaign officials said in a statement to the Dispatch that "these meetings did not result in business for Lehman Brothers, and John earned no commission from this or any other public sector business." Mr. Kasich never approached any other Ohio governmental entity about doing business with Lehman, the campaign said.
Mr. Kasich said yesterday he did not know what kind of investment products the New York office wanted to sell to the Ohio pension funds, and that his only part was in putting the two groups together.
"They came in and made a presentation and nothing ever came of it and I was not involved in it," Mr. Kasich said.
"It's not what I did in my job there. My job at Lehman was on the investment banking side. My job was to travel the country and help businesses get stronger. We were very profitable on our side. We were sold to Barclays, and that's what I did," Mr. Kasich said.
Referring to Mr. Strickland, Mr. Kasich said, "This guy's lost 427,000 jobs. All this talk is designed to try to shift the focus from what's really been a terrible administration and get people to focus on something else."
Mr. Kasich hit on the number of lost jobs in his speech from the steps of the Elks building to supporters on the sidewalk.
"When I think about that I think about people who have to go home and tell their spouses and children, 'I'm not working,'•" Mr. Kasich said.
Mr. Kasich joined Lehman Brothers as managing director of its investment banking group shortly after leaving Congress, where he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee. He weathered the massive investment firm's collapse and landed at Barclays when it acquired Lehman's brokerage assets in bankruptcy.
Mr. Kasich served in the Ohio Senate from 1979 until 1983. It was during his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee that the Republican-controlled Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton turned red ink to black when the federal government briefly ran its first budget surplus in nearly two decades.
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