Report Charges Taft Administration Subverts Election in Ohio, Allies with PDFA and CADCA in Effort to Defeat Initiative 5/31/02

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A report released Thursday (5/30) by the Institute for Policy Studies, by journalist Daniel Forbes, reveals improper intervention in an Ohio election by state and federal officials and government-connected nonprofits. A press release announcing the report, paraphrasing its introduction, stated:

Ohio Governor Bob Taft and the highest reaches of his administration have embarked on a concerted, months-long effort to subvert the state's electoral process, a report released yesterday charges. With overall control of budgets, jobs and sentencing policy at stake, the Taft administration has organized a sophisticated, sub-rosa campaign to defeat a "drug treatment rather than incarceration" referendum likely to appear on the ballot in November. Starting last spring, Gov. Taft himself, First Lady Hope Taft, his chief of staff and numerous senior and support staff have -- while on the clock, ostensibly serving the public -- conceived and directed a partisan political campaign.

A four-month Institute for Policy Studies investigation by journalist Daniel Forbes details political malfeasance, the misuse of public funds and the inappropriate use of government resources in Ohio. The effort has been aided by federal officials, including President Bush's publicly announced nominee to be deputy director of the White House drug czar's office (since confirmed), and a senior US Senate staffer. The drug czars of Florida and Michigan and a senior Drug Enforcement Administration agent also participated in the scheme.

Coming in for special scrutiny by Forbes were two powerful organizations, the Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) and the federally-funded Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). In both cases, Forbes revealed unseemly and improper connections between the groups and the Ohio anti-initiative effort. PDFA, whose famous TV ads always follow a drug prevention theme, was preparing to run ads in Ohio touting the success of existing court-ordered drug treatment programs. The Partnership, which touts itself as "non-partisan" sent four executives to Washington for a "counter-legalization" brainstorming session, Forbes repeated. The "non-partisan" PDFA was clearly to play a role in an electoral issue -- defeating the Ohio initiative.

Similarly, CADCA, which receives federal funding to the tune of $450 million in the current five-year period, and one of its prime movers, Mary Ann Solberg, come in for much needed scrutiny. Solberg, a former teacher turned moral entrepreneur, is the focus of a supplement to the main report. According to Forbes, Solberg, who is currently deputy director of the Office for National Drug Control Policy and sits on the CADCA advisory board, is using her position and CADCA grant funds to subvert the electoral process in Ohio and her home state, Michigan. While up to 20% of CADCA grant dollars can be used for "educational activities," it is unlikely that the Congress intended such "educational activities" to be in support of electoral campaigns. Forbes details the instructive career of Solberg in depth.

The report further states:

Ohio officials consulted with and enlisted the aid of the wife of the former finance chair of the Republican National Committee, as well as several taxpayer-supported, staunch anti-drug organizations, including the supposedly apolitical Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The Partnership was slated to produce TV ads to sway public opinion in favor of the Ohio drug-policy status quo. Its four top executives advised the Taft administration during a day-long strategy session held in the US Capitol building itself.

Ohio spent $106 million on "community-based treatment" in FY 2000, and overall control of vast sums of money and vast numbers of jobs underlies the political struggle. One Ohio official worried that the state will lose both "its ability to control sentencing policy" and "control of its own budget."

Last fall, Ohio's first lady, cabinet officials and senior staffers in the governor's office attended weekly strategy sessions on the public's dime. State funds paid for out of town trips and overnight lodging, and the administration even proposed to divert US Department of Justice crime-fighting grants to fund their nascent campaign's eventual polling, focus groups and advertising.

Modeled on a similar measure, Proposition 36, that passed overwhelmingly in California in 2000, the Ohio amendment proposes to offer treatment rather than prison to defendants charged with a first or second instance of simple drug possession.

The report and its executive summary can be viewed and downloaded at online. The Institute for Policy Studies is the nation's oldest and largest left of center multi-issue think tank.

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Issue #239, 5/31/02 Editorial: Skating on the Edge of Propriety | New DRCNet/ Merchandise Out -- Discounted Purchase Available | DEA Forges Alliance With Women Legislators Group to Wage War on Club Drugs, Terror | DEA Raids Another California Medical Marijuana Dispensary Even as Advocates Gear Up for Day of Action Next Friday | FBI Ends Drug War Role to Concentrate on Terror War | Western Australia to Cite, Not Arrest, Marijuana Users Under State Government Plan | National Drug Intelligence Center Gives Partial Response to DRCNet FOIA Request on "Drug Menace" Web Sites | Report Charges Taft Administration Subverts Election in Ohio, Allies with PDFA and CADCA in Effort to Defeat Initiative | Newsbrief: Seven Up Pulls "Prison Rape" Commercial Under Threat of Boycott | Newsbrief: Feds Use RICO Against Virginia Oxycontin Doctor | Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Rules Religious Marijuana Use on Federal Lands Okay | Newsbrief: Cannabis Cafe Vows to Open in England, Another in Scotland | Newsbrief: Tennessee Town Pays for Drug Raid Killing | Newsbrief: Oakland Rogue Cops Go on Trial | Newsbrief: Will Foster Arrested on Minor Parole Violation in California, May Face Return to Oklahoma Prison | Newsbrief: Swaziland Row Over Rasta Royals | Newsbrief: Marijuana Advocate Sues Over Hawaii Aerial Eradication Program | Newsbrief: Ed Thompson Does Weedstock, Says Legalize It | Newsbrief: British Magazine "The New Statesman" Calls for Drug Legalization | Newsbrief: Weird Scenes Inside the Pretoria Ford Plant | The Reformer's Calendar

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