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Ohio GOP Legislator Accused of Insulting Veterans In Hearing

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BILL SEITZ
Ohio state Sen. Bill Seitz (R) is being criticized for insulting veterans in a hearing. (AP Photo/Mike Elicson) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Republican lawmaker in Ohio insulted veterans in a hearing he led this month on renewable-energy standards, according to a veteran in attendance.

Iraq War veteran Dan Sawmiller, who is also the Sierra Club's senior campaign representative for Ohio and Kentucky, wrote a letter to the state Senate president on April 14 criticizing Sen. Bill Seitz (R), the Public Utilities Committee chairman, for calling the hearing a "Bataan Death March." From Sawmiller's letter:

On April 9, 2014, I testified as a representative of the Sierra Club in front of your Senate’s Public Utilities Committee, chaired by Senator Bill Seitz. Just before my testimony, the Senator referred to Ohio’s existing clean energy law as a “Bataan Death March.” In case you’re not familiar, the Bataan Death March consisted of 80,000 American and Filipino soldiers who were victims of a heinous war crime where captured troops were forced to march 80 miles through the jungle of the Philippines. They were starved, physically abused, tortured and brutally murdered. As many as 650 American soldiers were killed during the march alone. Those who made it through were tortured as prisoners of war and killed on Japan-bound ships. The selfless service of these veterans is something to be honored, not mocked.

Sawmiller also noted that Seitz opened a pack of cigarettes before leaving the room during one veteran's testimony.

"This behavior is completely devoid of any honor or respect, and is not becoming of the Ohio Senate or the State of Ohio," he added.

While Seitz said he doesn't remember mentioning the march, he did offer one potential rationale in comments to the Associated Press: "I don’t recall saying it, but if I did I was probably referring to the endless parade of witnesses they’ve brought forward to try to filibuster this bill."

Others in the hearing told the AP that Seitz also simulated shooting himself in the head during remarks from a state consumer advocate and left the room again while a clergy member spoke.

Seitz, who has a history of making controversial remarks, wants to significantly decrease mandates in Ohio law requiring that 12.5 percent of the state's electricity is generated from alternative energy sources by 2025. Last year, Seitz compared Ohio's alternative energy requirements to "Joseph Stalin's five-year plan" to modernize Russia's industry, according to the Wall Street Journal.

He attacked the concept of mandates as "Stalinist" again in January, comparing them to innovations made by famous inventors, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. “It was not some Stalinist government mandating, ‘You must buy my stuff,'" Seitz said in a hearing.

The Republican has also characterized those who oppose his energy proposals as being members of an "envirosocialist movement."

Seitz is a boardmember for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- a corporate-funded group that produces model legislation for conservative lawmakers across the country. He invited the Heartland Institute, an ALEC member organization that rejects the science behind climate change, to testify against the energy requirements last year, according to Mother Jones.

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