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Politically Speaking is WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson's column that examines the world of politics and how it shapes the world around us.

Commentary: Finally, Frank LaRose confirms what we 100% already knew

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose speaks to the Fairfield County Lincoln Republican Club in Pickerington, Ohio, Thursday, March 24, 2022.
Paul Vernon
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose speaks to the Fairfield County Lincoln Republican Club in Pickerington, Ohio, Thursday, March 24, 2022.

Frank LaRose and Matt Huffman — two Republicans who are Ohio's chief elections officer and most powerful legislator, respectively — can't keep their stories straight on State Issue 1.

The Ohio Secretary of State and the Ohio Senate president are busy trying to convince voters to go to the polls on August 8, in the dog days of summer, to pass an undemocratic and dodgy constitutional amendment to require that future ballot initiatives pass by 60% instead of 50% plus one, the standard in Ohio since 1912.

In other words, they want Ohio voters to disenfranchise themselves.

Until recently, the line towed was that this legislation is to save our constitution from out-of-state special interests.

Never mind that it's financed by an out-of-state billionaire.

COMMENTARY: How determined is the Ohio GOP to stop abortion? Let me count the ways...

So, to that end, they and other Ohio Republicans have formed a campaign committee called Save Our Constitution.

A more accurate name might be Save Our Constitution from Ideas We Don't Like.

Like abortion rights. But, shh, that's supposed to be a secret.

At least it was until December, when in a letter to Republican lawmakers Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Asheville), the legislation's co-sponsor, made it clear that the main drivers were defeating abortion and gerrymandering amendments.

"After decades of Republicans' work to make Ohio a pro-life state, the Left intends to write abortion on-demand into Ohio's constitution," Stewart wrote. "If they succeed, all the work accomplished by multiple Republican majorities will be undone and will return to 19,000+ babies being aborted each and every year."

But still, LaRose's reasoning for the legislation kept shifting, with nary a mention of abortion.

Huffman, meanwhile, has been busy trying to raise $6 million for a TV ad campaign touting the false premise of out-of-state special interests trying to influence elections.

Last week, Andrew Tobias of cleveland.com wrote a detailed story on a May 25 closed-door meeting called by Huffman and his pal, House Majority Whip Jim Hoops, at the swanky Columbus Athletic Club.

The invited guests were mostly lobbyists who do business with the state, who have legislation pending that they are lobbying for.

Using descriptions from unnamed participants, Tobias detailed how Huffman explained to them that he is very much interested in State Issue 1 and told the lobbyists they will be hearing from him for campaign contributions.

COMMENTARY: Ohio GOP wants voters to give up what little power they still have

All of this at the time of the year when the state budget is being cobbled together. It's when Statehouse lobbyists are most frantic in pushing their clients' bids for state money.

You think those lobbyists might be feeling a little heat? They are no doubt whipping out their checkbooks at this very moment.

The lobbyists being dunned for money were also briefed by the Save Our Constitution campaign consultants who made it clear to them that they will not hear the word "abortion" in their campaign ads.

That's where Frank LaRose comes in.

LaRose's head appears to be on swivel these days. He seems to be of two minds on a number of issues.

After months of very loudly proclaiming that State Issue 1 has nothing to do with stopping abortion rights supporters, a video surfaced in Ohio news outlets Monday of LaRose telling a different story at a May 22 meeting of the Seneca County Republican Party.

"It's 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution," LaRose told the Seneca County GOP.

Hey, Frank. Keep it down. That part was supposed to be a secret.

Not surprising though that LaRose spilled the beans. After all, he is the same guy who, last fall, was successfully lobbying to eliminate August elections. Then, when his bosses in the Ohio GOP needed one, he turned on a dime and supported legislation to set this August 8 "special election."

If you are looking for consistency, you've come to the wrong place. Ohio Republican leaders are all about re-writing history.

The Ohio GOP is making a desperate attempt to stop a movement to place an abortion rights amendment on the November ballot by moving the goal post to 60% and adding some difficult, if not impossible, new rules on signature gathering.

Catherine Turcer is executive director of Common Cause, one of the largest of the over 240 Ohio organizations lined up against State Issue 1.

"The most astounding thing about all of this is how brazen these people are," Turcer said of State Issue 1 supporters.

COMMENTARY: Commentary: Ohioans, you have a voice — for now. Be sure to use it

"You have Matt Huffman bringing in a bunch of high-powered lobbyists to hit them up for money," Turcer said. "Then you have Frank LaRose, the chief elections officer of the state. It's incredibly painful to watch as he won't do anything to empower voters. Instead, he tries to disenfranchise them."

In the end, Huffman will end up raising his $6 million. LaRose will continue saying whatever pops into his head.

And, this summer, you will be inundated with TV ads telling you that it is a good idea to make your votes count for less in the future.

Take it all with a grain of salt.

On second thought, make it rock salt.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.