Controlling board member state Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today objected to the state spending oversight panel’s approval of a $549,411 no-bid contract request from Ohio Secretary of State John Husted for Columbus-based Pierce Communications, Inc.’s work on an September 2016 “voter education effort.”

Pierce, a predominately GOP campaign-consulting firm, will use the funding for production costs and media-buys on television and radio for an undisclosed “voter education effort” leading up to the 2016 general election. The state contract with Pierce also maintains a strict confidentiality clause, prohibiting the company from releasing information about the public campaign without prior consent of the Ohio Secretary of State.

“Taxpayers have a right to know that their money is being spent wisely, but no-bid contracts for half-a-million dollars undermine that right and create the appearance of political favor trading with tax dollars,” said Cera. “It is not uncommon to engage the public on issues like absentee and early voting, but certainly there are hundreds of highly specialized companies throughout the state that deserve a fair shot at bringing taxpayers the best product for the best price.”

Cera says he believes the contract will likely be used to raise public awareness around absentee voting – something he supports – but takes issue with the lack of competition and broad scope of the state’s offer to Pierce.

“Typically, when you reduce competition in the marketplace, you take away the opportunity for a better product at a better price,” Cera added. “It should be our job, not just in the legislature, but in all branches of government, to act as watchdogs of The People’s money to safeguard the public trust.”

Husted, a likely candidate for Ohio governor in 2016, has come under scrutiny before for state-funded self-promotion efforts when he created an art competition for Election Day voting signs that prominently displayed his name inside polling locations. Though electioneering laws in Ohio prohibit materials identifying candidates for office within 100 feet of a polling location, Husted ordered counties to keep the posters displayed while he sought reelection in 2014.

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