Debra Jasper and Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus bureau
Secretary of State Ken Blackwell stirred up a little heat when he said the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling upholding the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law should mean the end to the secret political accounts kept by county and state political parties in Ohio.
"The continued use of secret operating accounts without full disclosure is a direct violation of the law," Blackwell said, speaking last week at a panel discussion hosted by the Associated Press. He repeated his call for officials to liquidate those accounts.
He also got a laugh when he pointed out that former Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Jeff Jacobson once said he would disclose his operating account over his dead body. "I think somebody's going to have to take his pulse this year," Blackwell said.
Jacobson, a state senator from suburban Dayton who is a contender for the Senate president's post next year, said he was telling a joke at the time. But he was quick to add that he's not buying Blackwell's stance.
"Secretary Blackwell should read the Fourth Amendment, which says you should have probable cause before you poke your nose in someone else's business," he said.
Blackwell praised Attorney General Jim Petro, who was also on the panel, for saying that if the issue winds up in court, he would argue on behalf of the position of his client - the Secretary of State.
"He's my man," Blackwell said with a grin.
PLAYING NICE: In a little preview of things to come, Blackwell and Petro appeared with State Auditor Betty Montgomery at the panel discussion. The three likely candidates for governor in 2006 were relatively polite to one another.
In fact, Petro and Montgomery - whose offices have been bickering for months - both went out of their way to praise each other, with Petro saying Montgomery did a solid job as former attorney general and Montgomery saying Petro laid a strong foundation as former state auditor.
"I had to tip my hat to Jim, I know that's odd," Montgomery said. "But it's easier to put the point on the pencil when there is a strong foundation."
Petro also cozied up a little with Blackwell, suggesting that repealing a new one-cent state sales tax that generates about $1.6 billion annually isn't such a bad idea. He said that maybe the legislature could eliminate the tax as early as this July - a full year before it is supposed to expire in 2005.
Blackwell, who is heading the repeal drive, said the tax should never have been enacted.
Montgomery disagreed with both of them. Doing away with the tax early would cause budget chaos, she said.
Debra Jasper (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Spencer Hunt (email@example.com) cover the Statehouse.
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