Grant Street Consultants President Neil Clark referred to Ohio conservatives as Nazis in a story published by The Daily Beast on September 4, then took to Facebook with cries of “bullying” when Media Trackers contacted him and several of his clients for comment on his quote.
“Neil Clark, a Republican lobbyist in Columbus, echoed [Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt] Borges, noting that in a state so divided, [Governor John] Kasich and others were right to ignore the extremes of the party,” Daily Beast reporter David Freedlander wrote before quoting Clark as saying, “I guess for some people in Ohio, unless you are a card-carrying Nazi you can’t be a Republican.”
A 2009 Columbus Monthly story about the collapse of Clark’s former lobbying firm noted that Clark “boasts deep ties to Republican politicians from his days as former Senate president Stan Aronoff’s budget whiz kid.”
Media Trackers contacted Clark on September 4, offering an opportunity to clarify if he had been misquoted or taken out of context. We also asked what prompted him to equate conservative Ohioans with members of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
Clark did not reply, but in a series of comments on his publicly-accessible Facebook page he complained, “Media trackers which is a ultra conservative group wants to bully me,” before asking, “Anyone have a picture of Jason Hart with Media Trackers?”
In a conversation with Columbus Dispatch reporter Alan Johnson which followed, Clark asked, “anyone have his business address?”
Consider the standard proposed by one of Ohio’s most powerful Republican lobbyists: calling conservatives Nazis is de rigueur, but asking, “why did you call conservatives Nazis?” is bullying.
“Kind of insulting that Media Trackers expects 1st Amendment rights to attack groups that don’t agree with their principles but freaks out when a counter attack is launched,” Clark wrote on September 4, as if his blanket slur of conservative Ohioans was committed in self-defense.
“I just learned that some bloggers like Jason Hart of Media Trackers may receive money to blog from ‘Special Interest Groups’ and. ‘Wealthy Individuals’ who want to remain hidden behind their mommy’s skirts while they attack anyone who doesn’t believe in their version of life. It’s like wearing a big white sheet with eye holes,” the lobbyist railed in a September 5 Facebook post.
Media Trackers also reached out to a number of Grant Street clients on September 4, asking whether they had any comments or planned to take any action in response to Clark’s publicized smear of his political foes.
“The Columbus Crew does not condone this type of rhetoric or behavior,” replied a spokesman for the Major League Soccer team who said he had never worked with Clark.
The Ohio Nurses Association, Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses, Ohio State Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and Adoption Network Cleveland all indicated they were no longer clients of Grant Street.
“We have never met, nor worked with, Neil Clark,” Ohio State Association of Nurse Anesthetists Executive Director Peggy Blankenship explained.
Roughly a dozen other Grant Street clients – including Cincinnati Public Schools, the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, and the Ohio Association of Election Officials – did not respond in time for publication.
Bizarrely, in another Facebook post Clark described our inquiries as “a threat,” suggesting it may be a felony to contact a lobbyist’s publicly advertised clients about a lobbyist’s public statements.
“Once they cross the line to contact clients or former clients to complain about my comments then I see that as form of intimidation…even a threat…no campaign committee or candidate has ever be sanctioned by the US Constitution to committed a felony,” he wrote.
At no point in his online tirade against Media Trackers did Mr. Clark express any regret for referring to conservatives as Nazis, nor did he identify any particular issue that prompted him to use that label.
The September 4 Daily Beast story focused on strife between conservatives and Ohio Republican Party leadership, caused mostly by Gov. Kasich’s embrace of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s recent endorsement of same-sex marriage.
Nearly 66 percent of Ohio voters chose to block Obamacare’s individual mandate in November 2011, and nearly 62 percent of Ohio voters chose to define marriage as between one man and one woman in November 2004.