Monday, Oct 15, 2018
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Editorials

House, heal thyself

  • Ohio-House-Speaker-FBI-3

    Former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger

    AP

  • ryan-smith-21900585-jpg

    State Representative Ryan Smith.

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Ohio’s House Republican caucus, now embroiled in a leadership fight, needs a reorientation toward the legislative needs of the state of Ohio and the demands of ethical service as much as it needs a new speaker.

The former speaker, Cliff Rosenberger (R., Clarksville), has taken the last train home since he resigned April 12 under the cloud of an FBI investigation.

Mr. Rosenberger attracted the interest of the FBI with the use of campaign funds and his trips around the world and around the country. Last week he filed a disclosure declaring more than $40,000 for trips taken last year and paid for by others.

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He has also attracted criticism for accepting a low-rent apartment owned by Republican political contributor Virginia Ragan. Every member of the House owes it to his and her constituents to be free of undue influence from contributors and lobbyists, and one gets there by not accepting large gifts.

ryan-smith-21900585-jpg

State Representative Ryan Smith.

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State Rep. Ryan Smith (R., Gallipolis), who was a close ally of Mr. Rosenberger, shared for a time in the low-rent apartment. Mr. Smith is seeking the speakership for the remainder of the session, but so far he doesn’t have the votes because two other House members also received votes when the 65-member caucus met on May 15 behind closed doors.

No one received enough votes, so the House recessed. It is set to return Tuesday  for a vote on speaker.

It’s a fascinating exercise in vote-counting and vote-persuading and, probably, arm-twisting, but it all threatens to only further tarnish the already scuffed image of the House Republican caucus.

Mr. Smith has said the rent he paid was market rate, but he should declare what it was and should rededicate himself and his members to transparency and a policy of refusing to accept gifts of any kind, either from lobbyists or from political contributors. 

The purpose of those gifts is to influence Ohio legislation, and the only thing that should be influencing Ohio legislation is the best interests of all Ohioans.

Then, Mr. Smith might earn the right to wield the speaker’s gavel.

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