In the past four days, three Ohio elected officials have made national headlines for taking lobbyist-fueled exotic trips on behalf of the finance industry.
The latest is Rep. Jim Renacci who was caught on undercover video "manning a golf cart" at an exclusive Key Largo resort event for lobbyists. CBS News released the footage this morning, which featured "braised baby octopus" served at a resort with "52 holes of championship golf". Event organizers would not disclose the names of the lobbyists, who paid between $10,000 and $46,200 to attend the fundraiser. Renacci serves on the House Financial Services Committee and CBS determined at least of the attendees on the list is a bank lobbyist.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on Tuesday that Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel recently flew to the Bahamas to host a fundraiser at a conference for payday lenders. Prior to becoming treasurer, then-State Rep. Mandel voted against closing loopholes for payday lenders. ProgressOhio has previously called on Mandel to return this money.
Finally, State Rep. Carlton Weddington was indicted for bribery for taking all-expense-paid trips to Napa Valley and Miami, as well accepting cash and campaign contributions. The FBI investigation that led to the charges was sparked by allegations of impropriety relating to payday lending.
ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg has this to say:
"The good news is the financial industry has apparently recovered enough to fly to exotic resorts to write big checks to Josh Mandel and Jim Renacci.
The bad news is families in Ohio are still fighting to keep their homes after big banks caused our economy to collapse.
In the wake of the resignation and indictment of Carlton Weddington, Treasurer Mandel and Rep. Renacci should seriously consider returning this money. Failing that, they owe their constituents more than dodging reporter questions and adhering to minimum disclosure laws.
I think most people would be surprised by how thin the line is between what gets you four years in jail and what can buy you four years in office."