Sunday, January 30, 2000

CAPITOL INSIDER


This time, it's 'Sayonara, Bob'

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Before leaving on a 10-day trade mission to Japan last week, Gov. Bob Taft recalled his famous family's nearly century-old ties to the country.

        The one thing conspicuously missing from his litany set him on a course to become Ohio's 67th governor.

        In 1990, Mr. Taft, then a Hamilton County commissioner, was in a tough race against incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Sherrod Brown. Many political observers think Mr. Taft pulled ahead and won the race by running a TV ad mocking Mr. Brown for mulling a leave of absence to study in Japan.

        Even though Mr. Brown never made the trip, the tag line of Mr. Taft's ad stuck: Sayonara, Sherrod.

        Mr. Brown, now a congressman, returned the rhetorical jab last week.

        “Congratulations on your upcoming trip to Japan,” he wrote Mr. Taft. “I have always believed that, at the right time, even an all-expenses-paid trip for an elected official can pay dividends for Ohio residents.”

        “Enjoy your visit,” Mr. Brown wrote. “Sayonara, Bob.”

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        Mr. Taft raised eyebrows among his Republican colleagues last year when he made a label-busting speech to the Ohio AFL-CIO and vowed to block legislation that would undermine “the union tradition that built the industrial foundation of this state.”

        Union leaders welcomed the chance to forge a good relationship with the governor, whose campaign was funded largely by business interests. But they're disappointed he won't be using his trade mission to urge Japan to cut back on steel dumping that has hurt the state's steelmakers.

        “I don't think it's the governor's role to negotiate those types of issues,” Mr. Taft said. “That is best dealt with at the federal level.”

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        The governor's key issue at home is improving the state's public schools. But he plans to be all business on the Japan trip.

        As Mr. Taft hustles to attract more Japanese investment in Ohio and boost the state's exports, first lady Hope Taft will spend much of her time studying how Japanese schools teach children. She plans to visit six schools, including several that have cultural ties with schools in Ohio.

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        Parents of children who contribute money to political candidates say their kids give voluntarily from their own bank accounts, even though some of the donors still are in diapers.

        But at least one state lawmaker is willing to admit the parents control who gets their child's money.

        “It seems to me that one of the responsibilities of a parent is to make decisions on a child's behalf,” Rep. Bryan Williams, R-Akron, said last week during a hearing on a bill that would limit kiddie giving. “What is wrong with a parent making a contribution on their child's behalf?”

        Maybe Mr. Williams needs to check the statute books. State law prohibits donors from giving money to political causes in the name of another person.

        Kiddie-giving is so widespread nationally that federal election officials have urged Congress to bar donations from minors, based on the presumption that youngsters are not making contributions on their own behalf.

       



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