Ohio Republican Party Strives to Stifle Obamacare Dissent

GOP demands silence

A Media Trackers attempt to learn local Ohio Republican Party (ORP) leaders’ opinions of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion prompted an odd reaction from one county chairman, who instructed all county chairs to delete the inquiry from an “enemy blogger.”

On August 12, Media Trackers reached out to Republican Party officials in nearly three dozen counties with a summary of arguments for and against the expansion. We asked whether their executive committees had taken positions on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and if so, how their decisions had been reached.

Less than an hour later, Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman David W. Johnson replied, “I am against anything that even has Obama’s name attached to it.”

No other local ORP leaders responded.

Days later, Media Trackers obtained a copy of a message Johnson sent to ORP county chairs the morning of August 13, warning to “beware of enemy blogger trying to rope Republican leaders into an anti-Kasich blog-fest.”

Attached to the message was a Word document titled “RepublicanResponseToDemocratBlogger.” Written on Johnson’s personal letterhead, the document bore all the markings of Party communications staff scrambling to ensure local leaders were marching to the orders passed down from Columbus.

“You may have received an email yesterday with false information regarding the Governor’s healthcare policy from a blogger who is known to be anti-Kasich on virtually every issue,” the document read. “I respectively ask all county chairs and state committee members that received this email to delete it or move it to your spam box.”

Media Trackers followed up with Johnson on August 16 to ask whether he wanted to rescind his August 12 comment. We also invited him to identify anything from our first message that was inaccurate.

Johnson did not respond.

“Governor John Kasich and Lt. Governor Mary Taylor have been steadfast in their opposition to Obamacare,” Johnson’s August 13 letter continued.

Since February, Gov. Kasich has used a litany of misleading liberal talking points to push Medicaid expansion and secure billions in Obamacare spending.

The letter from Johnson claimed the Obamacare Medicaid expansion would “protect small businesses from as much as $88M annually in penalties,” “cover 26,000 veterans who are currently without access to healthcare coverage,” “protect the unborn with improved pre-natal care,” and “keep rural Ohio hospitals open when uninsured compensation payments end.”

Far from representing a cohesive argument, the Party’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion claims combine to form a checklist of constituencies paid off by promises Gov. Kasich has made with money DC does not have.

Additionally, the ORP threat of widespread hospital closures without Medicaid expansion was debunked by Media Trackers in March – as we explained in the August 12 email county chairs were told to delete.

“The Governor’s position is not ‘accepting Obamacare in Ohio’, or ‘surrendering’ to the bad policies that come out of Washington,” Johnson asserted. “Instead, Medicaid expansion is the pragmatic and logical approach for Ohio to lessen the negative impact of Obamacare.”

As Johnson’s email addressed none of the facts about the Obamacare Medicaid expansion laid out in our inquiry, it seems clear ORP believes dismissing Media Trackers as an “enemy,” “Democrat” outlet is wise strategy.

Whether the Party is attempting to silence similar concerns from The Buckeye Institute, Opportunity Ohio, Ohio Rising, the Ohio Liberty Coalition and its member groups, Americans for Prosperity Ohio, The Heritage Foundation, Foundation for Government Accountability, The Galen Institute, the Cato Institute, and others is unknown.

Media Trackers contacted the Ohio Republican Party for confirmation that Johnson’s instructions to ignore us came from state Party officials, and for comment on the practice of blacklisting critics of the governor’s policies.

Like Johnson himself, ORP did not respond.