Friday, June 10, 2005

Impeach Taft

The Constitution of the State of Ohio, Article 2, Sections 23 and 24 provide:

The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment, but a majority of the members elected must concur therein. Impeachments shall be tried by the senate; and the senators, when sitting for that purpose, shall be upon oath or affirmation to do justice according to law and evidence. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the senators.

The Governor, judges, and all state officers, may be impeached for any misdemeanor in office; but judgment shall not extend further than removal from office, and disqualification to hold any office under the authority of this state. The party impeached, whether convicted or not, shall be liable to indictment, trial, and judgment, according to law.

The question of whether Governor Taft's actions might rise to the level of an impeachable offense is an important one. Right now, the Governor is swearing up and down that he wasn't told of the losses to the state workers' compensation fund. Meanwhile, there seems to be mounting evidence to the contrary, as reported here yesterday. If it is true that Taft was told of the losses to the fund, and he is lying in an attempt to cover his ever-more exposed rear end, then he can easily be accused of dereliction of the office of Governor and abuse of power. Abuse of power would certainly rise to the level of an impeachable offense under the Federal Constitution. However, as far as Ohio's Constitution is concerned, there is a big legal loophole because the Ohio Constitution specifically uses the word "misdemeanor" by itself instead of "high crimes and misdemeanors," as the Federal Constitution does. The term "high crimes" is left entirely open for Congress to decide what a "high crime" is. The Ohio Constitution does not use the term "high crimes," which leaves only the meaning of the word "misdemeanor."

Does "misdemeanor" in this context actually mean that the Governor must have committed a misdemeanor crime? If so, it is possible he can be convicted in the State Senate (which would sit as a Court of Impeachment) and found innocent of the same crime in a Court of Law. What shall happen then? An impeached Governor becomes ineligible to hold office under public trust in Ohio, even, it would seem, if a Court of Law clears his name. Considering that this is the case, it may mean that it is up to the General Assembly to define "misdemeanor" according to the circumstances of the case. If this is the case, the General Assembly may be free to consider dereliction and abuse of power "misdemeanors."

Bob Taft has been a popular Governor as far as elections go, but many of those who voted for him (myself included) readily concede that he has been an ineffective and poor Governor. Many Republicans, including many members of the legislature, think that he is not only a bad executive, but that he is not well-informed about the inner-workings of state government. He has managed to win elections largely because this state is conservative enough to laugh any liberal (mostly Northern Ohio) political offerings the Democrats have back to Toledo or Cleveland or Akron. If the Dems offered any real candidates, such as a Frank Lausche-type figure, Taft would no longer be Governor. Taft, a native Cincinnatian, was the first member of his family to be booed by a friendly crowd at a Republican political rally in Cincinnati that I can remember. If any Republican deserved impeachment, it would be Bob Taft. It might even do the Republicans some good if they moved to impeach him, and then have Blackwell elected next year.

As it is, this finally gives the Democrats in Ohio the opening they have been waiting for. For years they've been in the political wilderness, but this scandal has breathed new life into Darth Party.

The legal implications of impeachment are unclear in the Constitution of 1851, and the circumstances under which impeachment can be initiated are unclear. Hence this is one of the many reasons why I would love to scrap Ohio's current bloated Constitution and return to Ohio's original Constitution of 1802. The Constitution of 1802 leaves the question of "impeaching" solely up to the General Assembly, and leaves with the General Assembly the decision of what constitutes an impeachable offense (Article I, Section 23).

Governor Bob Taft: Is it possible for him to be impeached?


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