Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is being criticized by a potential 2014 opponent for a new $1.4 million ad campaign touting the state's economic development success to residents.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald (D) sent a letter to Kasich on Tuesday questioning a series of commercials and print advertisements that Jobs Ohio, the state's economic development agency, has debuted. The ads tout how job creation has changed communities across the state. The ads, described as Thrive in Ohio, ask residents to send in their job success stories to a website operated by Jobs Ohio. The stories will be used to help recruit business to Ohio.
“In the past year alone, Ohio businesses have created more jobs than any other state in the country," one of the commercials says.
The ad campaign includes at least four commercials, along with a series of print advertisements. The Columbus Dispatch said the print ads have run in newspapers in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, along with the Wall Street Journal. Online ads are planned for several national business news websites.
Fitzgerald questioned the timing of the ads, which coincide with the second half of Kasich's first term.
"I write to express my concern, and the concern of many in Northeast Ohio and across the state, about your recent use of $1.4 million dollars in state funds to place television and print ads that strongly seem meant to bolster your personal job approval numbers," Fitzgerald wrote in the letter, which was released by the Ohio Democratic Party. "These ads are an improper waste of state funds and seem intended to boost your gubernatorial re-election effort rather than actually help with economic development here in-state."
Fitzgerald noted that Jobs Ohio, the public-private partnership agency that Kasich created to manage the state's economic development efforts, is exempt from public disclosure of spending. Jobs Ohio was created by Kasich in 2011 as a way to shift economic development policy from the state-funded Department of Development to the new agency, which is funded by the state and private companies. Kasich renamed the Department of Development the state Development Services Agency, with a new mission to help existing businesses.
Fitzgerald also praised the role President Barack Obama played in the state's economy, including the auto bailout, which Obama and Ohio Democrats emphasized in the 2012 campaign.
"Like most Ohioans, I’m deeply thankful that President Obama and Ohio’s partners have helped foster an economic recovery for our state that began in February 2010 and continues to this day," Fitzgerald wrote.
Fitzgerald, 44, has been mentioned as a potential Kasich opponent in the 2014 governor's race, along with former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who Kasich unseated in 2010. Fitzgerald, a former Lakewood mayor and FBI agent, was elected as the first ever county executive in Ohio's largest county in 2010.
Kasich's spokesman Rob Nichols told HuffPost that the role of Jobs Ohio is to promote the state and the promotion policies are similar to those used by the Department of Development under past governors. He also said that the same promotion policies would continue under Kasich's successors.
Nichols released a response from Kristi Tanner, the chief operating officer of Jobs Ohio, who described the advertising campaign as similar to what she worked on at the evelopment department under Strickland and his Republicans predecessors, Robert Taft and George Voinovich. She said the plan is not unique to Ohio.
"In fact, other states are spending significantly more to promote their state as a good location for business," Tanner said. "It is essential to job creation, and Ohioans should be proud of what's going on in the state and for the fact that it's being recognized and promoted."
Tanner also explained that while the state has run ads outside of Ohio, there is a need to run them within the state to spur economic growth.
“There were many ads that ran inside of Ohio with the similar message about why it’s great to live and work in Ohio. You have to speak to your home audience. Our existing businesses, both large and small, create 80% of the new job growth. If those businesses, including their influencers and their families don’t feel good about Ohio’s economy then they’ll be less inclined to re-invest in the state," she said. "And just as was done in the Strickland administration, (and the Taft & Voinovich administrations) the campaign serves as a vehicle to collect those positive stories to be used to attract companies that have no past experience working in the state of Ohio.”