COLUMBUS - Ohio Democrats cried foul Thursday when Republican state treasurer candidate Josh Mandel launched a television ad they claim inserts religion into his battle with Democratic incumbent Kevin Boyce.
The 30-second ad, titled "Boyce Corruption," furthers the allegation that Mr. Boyce gave a lucrative contract to a Boston bank after it hired a friend as a lobbyist. The ad is airing statewide, including in the Toledo market, in rotation with another ad that largely promotes veteran support for Mr. Mandel, a state representative who served two terms in Iraq as a Marine intelligence specialist.
Mr. Boyce was appointed treasurer by Gov. Ted Strickland at the beginning of 2009 and is seeking a full four-year term.
Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern accused Mr. Mandel of outright lying and said a complaint will be filed with the Ohio Elections Commission.
He accused Mr. Mandel of intentionally inserting religion into an atmosphere already charged with controversy over the possible siting of a mosque in New York City near Ground Zero of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
"It's a modern-era Willie Horton ad, which was about an African-American in that particular [1988 presidential] race with Michael Dukakis and George Bush," Mr. Redfern said. "Today it's about mosques and Muslims, Islamic centers, and names that sound kind of funny when you live in places like Ohio."
The vocal narrative of the ad states: "Incumbent Kevin Boyce, protecting our money, or helping himself? Boyce outsourced Ohio work to a risky Boston bank, but only after they hired his friend as a lobbyist. And the lobbyist? Boyce gave his wife a sensitive job in the treasurer's office. A job Boyce admitted he only made available at their mosque …"
Although never mentioned in the narrative, the lobbyist's name, Mohammed Noure Aloed, is clearly seen on a note next to a newspaper headline on a bulletin board.
"Every single second, every single word is factually accurate and backed by numerous articles published by numerous newspapers …," Mandel campaign spokesman Joe Aquilino said.
He said religion is irrelevant to the message.
"It doesn't matter if it's a synagogue, church, Hindu temple, or country club," he said. "Religion is absolutely irrelevant."
Mr. Aquilino also said there was no attempt in the ad's wording to leave viewers with the impression that Mr. Boyce is Muslim and that the availability of a "sensitive job" was only announced "at their mosque."
Mr. Boyce proclaims Christianity, and the Democratic Party noted that he is a steward of his African Methodist Episcopalian church in Columbus.
At issue is the treasurer's office award of a lucrative contract to State Street Bank of Boston to handle Ohio's pension system's global assets.
The bank was under investigation in California at the time for allegedly overcharging the state's pension funds for foreign exchange fees, something that was not involved in the Ohio contract.
In a recent interview with The Blade, Mr. Boyce said he decided to seek competitive bids for the contract, which in the past had been negotiated. The result, he said, was $20 million in fee savings for the pension funds.
"Keep in mind, State Street had those contracts two years ago," he said. "It's not uncommon for banks to go aggressively by low bidding on contracts like that to get them back. … They were very low. They went rock-bottom."
The lobbyist's wife was hired by Mr. Boyce as a receptionist before State Street hired him as a lobbyist, but the treasurer insisted that the bids were kept confidential, that State Street's bid was submitted before it hired the lobbyist, and that the receptionist had no access to information that would have affected the outcome.
No charges have been filed, and both Mr. Aquilino and Mr. Mandel said they were unaware of any investigations.
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