Controlling Board member state Rep. Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma) today raised concerns over a $265,000 no-bid contract between Ohio Secretary of State John Husted and Columbus-based Pierce Communications, Inc.’s for work on Husted’s upcoming “voter education effort.” Husted’s unbid quarter of a million dollar contract comes amid growing public concern and new legal restrictions on taxpayer-funded self-promotion of politicians in Ohio, after it was discovered Treasurer Josh Mandel spent almost $2 million in tax dollars on self-promotional ads with no oversight.
“Ensuring voters have information is fundamental in maintaining a robust American democracy. That’s why it’s equally important that elected officials don’t abuse the public trust by using public service announcements as self-promotional stepping stones to higher office,” said Celebrezze. “Taxpayers shouldn’t have to worry about Columbus politicians using their money to advance personal political ambitions.”
Husted, a candidate for governor, will pay Pierce, a GOP campaign-consulting firm, for production costs and media-buys on television and radio for a “voter education effort” leading up to the 2017 election. Husted gave the GOP firm an unbid contract, with Controlling Board approval, worth half a million dollars last year to promote the 2016 election. The television ads at the time prominently displayed Husted’s name throughout the entirety of the ad while Secretary Husted promoted his own efforts with an oft-repeated slogan.
“While it’s important everyone take part in the electoral process, I really believe Secretary Husted should keep his name and image out of the ads to avoid even the appearance that this campaign will benefit his run for governor,” Celebrezze added.
Husted 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.