Ohio Libertarians say attorneys with GOP ties helped get them tossed off the statewide ballot

By JULIE CARR SMYTH Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS -- Libertarians in Ohio cried foul Tuesday after learning a Republican consultant and appointee of Gov. John Kasich was responsible for hiring the law firm whose challenge pushed two of their candidates off the statewide ballot.

Terry Casey worked for Kasich's 2010 campaign and the governor has since appointed him to the $70,000-a-year job chairing the state personnel review board.

Casey's role hiring Zeiger, Tigges & Little emerged in a case in which Libertarians are asking federal Judge Michael Watson to restore governor candidate Charlie Earl and attorney general candidate Steven Linnabary to November's ballot.

In a new court filing, the party also says Bradley Smith, hired to oversee the disqualification hearing by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, didn't disclose he was working for Ohio's Republican attorney general, Mike DeWine, doing pro bono work at the time. DeWine's office confirmed Smith held an appointment from Feb. 27, five days before the Libertarians' hearing, through June 30. A message seeking comment was left at Smith's office Tuesday.

Libertarians have asked Watson to expedite a trial in their case on grounds the disqualifications were based on partisan, not principled, reasons. The U.S. Constitution prohibits government officials from removing candidates for partisan reasons.

The Zeiger firm represented Libertarian voter Gregory Felsoci in a protest of ballot petitions filed by Earl and Linnabary, but Casey hired the firm and is paying the legal bill -- including through contributions from Ohio Republicans, he confirmed in an interview Tuesday.

Casey defended his role, saying Libertarians would not have run into trouble if they had submitted petitions that were legal.

"The problem in their theory is that, based on the filings originally and the hearing conducted by Brad Smith, there was clear evidence that came out on the petitions: the use of the paid circulator and other problems that made them deficient under state law," Casey said. "There never would have been a complaint if they'd have had sufficient required signatures and not have had the proven legal problems."

He said he'll accept money from Republicans, Democrats or independents to help pay the law firm -- and thanked Libertarians for the free publicity.

Outside of the legal challenge, Earl called on Kasich to remove Casey from his state post.

"Like many political 'bag men' and 'fixers,' he lacks the ethical compass to serve the people of Ohio," he said.

"If Casey possesses a scintilla of ethical probity, he would resign and apologize to the people of Ohio for colluding to limit their voices and choices in Ohio's electoral process. Since he won't, we therefore call on Gov. Kasich to dismiss Casey ... and restore some measure of confidence in state government. "

A Kasich spokesman declined comment, as did Husted's office. Husted is scheduled to be deposed Thursday in the case.

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