Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had a heavy hand in his home state’s redistricting process, according to documents obtained via a public records request by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting.
The documents provide a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into Congressional mapmaking. The documents show GOP officials made great efforts to ensure House Republicans — and in particular Boehner — were satisfied with their new districts.
Earlier this year, Ohio Republicans passed an aggressive map intended to give the GOP a 12-to-4 advantage over Democrats in next year’s election.
The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting claims the state’s mapmaking process hasn’t been transparent from the get-go, and it released a report today including emails between Boehner’s team and mapmakers dispatched by state legislative leaders.
The report named two high-level House GOP aides as guiding local mapmakers: Tom Whatman, the executive director of the Speaker’s political arm, “Team Boehner,” and Adam Kincaid, a redistricting staffer for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“I am still committed to ending up with a map that Speaker Boehner fully supports,” state Senate President Thomas Niehaus wrote to Whatman in a Sept. 11 email obtained by the group.
Documents show Whatman also requested a last-minute fix to the map by moving a manufacturing company’s headquarters into Rep. Jim Renacci’s (R) district. The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting pointed out in a footnote that Renacci has received $120,000 in political donations from the company’s employees in the last two years.
“Thanks guys. Very important to someone important to us all,” Whatman replied in an email exchange with Kincaid and a local mapmaker about the move.
The report also claims that redistricting officials rented a downtown hotel room from July 17 to Oct. 15 to keep the map-drawing in a clandestine location. In emails, staffers referred to the hotel room as the “bunker” or “off site.”
Emails show redistricting officials considered several variations of Member-vs.-Member races, including moving Democratic Reps. Betty Sutton and Marcia Fudge into the same district or GOP Reps. Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson into the same district.
Most notably, the report shows redistricting officials considered pairing Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R) against either Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) or Rep. Michael Turner (R). In August, the Columbus Dispatch reported mapmakers considered forcing Jordan into a tough new district as political retribution for facing off with Boehner over legislation to raise the debt ceiling.
Ohio lost two seats following reapportionment, forcing at least two Members to run against each other in 2012 if everyone in the delegation seeks re-election. Under the passed map, Sutton and Renacci will run against each other, Kaptur and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) will run against each other, and Turner and Rep. Steve Austria (R) will face off.
Democrats have protested the new lines, and party officials are attempting to put the map up as a referendum on next year’s ballot.
NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek responded to the report, saying, “We provide information and resources at the request of Members in the redistricting process.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.